Yesterday at PJ Media, I reported on conflicting stories offered by the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix (ICCP) regarding former mosque attendees Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, who were killed this past Sunday in a gunfight outside a Dallas-area center where a “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest was being held.
I noted the attempts by the mosque president, Usama Shami, to downplay the ties of the two would-be terrorists. This included Shami’s claim to the press that neither was a regular member. In fact, Elton “Ibrahim” Simpson had been featured in a mosque fundraising video posted on ICCP’s YouTube channel in 2012 identifying him as a member:
In fact, Simpson and Soofi were not the only two terrorists spawned from ICCP. Two other previous ICCP mosque attendees — Hassan Abu-Jihaad and Derrick Shareef — are currently in federal prison on terrorism-related charges.
There are remarkable parallels with Simpson and Soofi, including that Abu-Jihaad and Shareef were also roommates.
Further, Usama Shami attempted to downplay their association with ICCP as well. He told the Arizona Republic he never saw the pair – despite court records in both their cases stating they had attended the mosque.
Abu-Jihaad is currently serving a 10-year federal prison sentence for passing classified information to a UK-based al-Qaeda webmaster. According to the Justice Department:
In 2001, Abu-Jihaad was serving as a U.S. Navy signalman aboard the U.S.S. Benfold and had access to the future movements of his group of ships, led by the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Constellation. Six months after the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and before leaving home port in San Diego for a deployment in the Persian Gulf, Abu-Jihaad transmitted then-classified information about his battle group’s itinerary, listing dates for anticipated port calls in Hawaii and Australia, and for the battle group’s transit through the Strait of Hormuz. Abu-Jihaad’s disclosure discussed the battle group’s perceived vulnerability to terrorist attack.
The leak did not come to light until well after Abu-Jihaad left the Navy, when an investigation into Azzam Publications led to the search of a London apartment associated with one of the website’s organizers, and authorities found a floppy disk containing the U.S. Navy information. Subsequent investigation uncovered several email exchanges from late 2000 to late 2001 between members of Azzam Publications and Abu-Jihaad, including discussions regarding videos Abu-Jihaad ordered from Azzam Publications that promoted violent jihad and extolled the virtues of martyrdom; a donation of money Abu-Jihaad made to Azzam Publications; and whether it was “safe” to send materials to Abu-Jihaad at his military address onboard the U.S.S. Benfold.
The FBI established a direct tie between Abu-Jihaad and Simpson according to court documents in the latter’s 2010 trial, as Simpson was first questioned by the FBI in 2006 when authorities believed he might be part of a terror cell:
In 2006, agents opened a criminal investigation of him based on his ties with an individual “whom the FBI believed was attempting to set up a terrorist cell in Arizona,” according to court documents.
Agents say Simpson knew Hassan Abu-Jihaad, an enlistee in the U.S. Navy later convicted of leaking classified information about upcoming movements of his battle group to an alleged terror cell in London. Simpson told agents he knew Abu-Jihaad, who was arrested in Phoenix in 2007, but did not tell them anything else about him.
Undoubtedly, what launched that 2006 investigation was the activity of Abu-Jihaad’s former roommate, Derrick Shareef.
Shareef was arrested in 2006 for his role in a plot to set off hand grenades at a Rockford, Illinois shopping mall during the holiday season. He later pled guilty on a charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, and was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
During his trial, the FBI provided video tapes of Shareef threatening Americans:
“You are the enemies of Islam, for the sake of Allah we are coming for you,” Shareef says in a tape that looks like it could have been shot somewhere in the Middle East. In fact, the camera was 90 miles from Chicago in a Rockford home where the 22-year-old and a friend each made several videos declaring their desire for destruction.
“We will target you in your homes. We will target you in your businesses. We will target you in your synagogues and your churches. We do not fear you Kafirs. I swear by Allah I am ready to give my life right now for the cause,” the tape says.
The mosque also came under scrutiny in March 2008, when a large group of men from ICCP began firing semi-automatic weapons in an open area frequented by runners and bikers near a residential area, as the Arizona Republic reported at the time:
Shortly before noon on a sunny Sunday in March, two Toyota SUVs rolled to a stop along a dirt road in north Phoenix.
About 20 young Muslim males climbed out, armed with assault rifles, a shotgun, a sniper rifle and handguns. The location near Happy Valley Road and 51st Avenue is a desert recreation site for off-road motorists, hikers and bikers, dozens of whom were enjoying the spring-like weather.
For more than an hour, the shooters blasted away at a granite rock and empty cans in front of a hill.
Officials estimate the fusillade totaled 500 to 1,000 rounds. Some shooters left before police arrived and detained 10 adults and five boys, including an 11-year-old.
The young men and boys told officers the weapons belonged to their parents. They said they were not aware it was illegal to use firearms in the residential area.
Six were arrested and charged with felony weapons violations in Maricopa County Superior Court. Among them were the 20- and 21-year-old sons of two imams at Phoenix-area mosques, as well as the 20-year-old son of Abdallah.
Needless to say, the usual suspects claimed the men were being targeted because of their Islamic faith, rather than their firing rifles in a prohibited area that endangered others.
ICCP officials would most likely claim that the case of the “Draw Muhammad” terrorists coming out of their mosque, as had a traitor betraying classified military secrets to al-Qaeda, and a man planning a terror attack on a shopping mall during the holidays, is a matter of bad luck.
But one of the main tools used by terror recruiters is the Islamic grievance narrative that Muslims are under attack from the West.
In fact, ICCP regularly hosts speakers pushing that Islamic grievance narrative, such as the February 2013 appearance of Lauren Booth:
As I reported here at PJ Media in 2012, Booth had been interviewed in a California mosque spouting Jew-hatred, making anti-American statements, and calling President Obama a murderer:
Interestingly, the man interviewing Booth in that video, my friend Tom Trento of the United West, was broadcasting live inside the “Draw Muhammad” event on Sunday when it came under attack by Simpson and Soofi, and he continued giving live video updates as the situation unfolded.
So while ICCP officials may call the four terrorists that have come from their mosque a tragic coincidence, others may call it a pattern. Or as my law enforcement colleagues would describe it, an “investigative clue.”