Pakistani terror group's reconnaissance mission in New York
November 4, 2007
Official: Militant Pakistani group causes terror concerns in New York The Associated Press
NEW YORK: A follower of an Islamic militant group caused a previously undisclosed scare in 2004 when someone in his truck took mobile phone photos of the support structures of the Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges, a police official said. The New York Police Department uncovered the suspected reconnaissance mission in Manhattan while investigators already were on alert that Pakistani immigrants loyal to the radical Sunni group, Sipah-e-Sahaba, were in the city "and possibly up to no good," said Paul Browne, the NYPD's top spokesman. The spokesman detailed the bridge episode in response to a report on Friday in the Daily News that the NYPD was involved in the detention of a member of the group who is purportedly wanted in Pakistan for the assassination of a Shiite leader.
The NYPD has credited one of its intelligence analysts with piecing together evidence that the suspect, Akhtar Hussain Muawia, had used an alias to slip into the United States after the 1997 assassination and was working as a clerk at a grocery store in Jersey City, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from New York. Muawia, 33, was detained in May and is fighting deportation. His attorney has denied he was involved in the killing or any acts of terrorism. The NYPD's involvement in the Muawia case reflects its concerns that U.S. followers of lesser-known radical groups like Sipah-e-Sahaba could pose a threat to the city. The Pakistani government outlawed the group after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in an effort to purge the country of extremism, much of it anti-American.
The group also has been designated a terrorist organization by the State Department. Investigators from the NYPD's Intelligence Division first became aware of a Sipah-e-Sahaba presence in the city in the summer of 2003, Browne said. That fall, acting on an unfounded tip about a potential plot against the subways, police and the FBI that fall raided a Brooklyn apartment where they discovered membership applications and other documents related to the group. In 2004, a truck traveling on the FDR caught the attention of an off-duty police officer by pausing to let someone inside "photograph the supporting structures underneath the Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges," Browne said. It was later learned that the truck was registered to Tariq Javid, whose name was on a Sipah-e-Sahaba membership list found in the Brooklyn apartment. Under questioning, Javid first denied knowing anything about the group, then admitted he had signed a membership form, according to court papers. However, he denied knowing anything about photographs of the bridges. Last year, Javid pleaded guilty to making a false statement and was sentenced to one year probation.
Jersey City worker triggerman in Pakistan assassination
By JONATHAN LEMIRE and ALISON GENDAR
Friday, November 2nd 2007, 5:15 PM
Akhtar Hussain Muawia worked in Jersey City bodega following his alleged assassination of Shia leader Mahmood Shah in Pakistan in 1997.
The store, run by Muawia's brother-in-law, is suspected of laundering money for terror group.A Jersey City grocery clerk had a secret life before he started stocking shelves: He was a Pakistani assassin wanted for a decade-old murder, law enforcement sources said.
Akhtar Hussain Muawia sneaked into the country under an assumed name less than a year after the murder of a top Shia leader, moved in with his sister and worked in his brother-in-law's Mashaallah Grocery, the sources said.
The NYPD unmasked Muawia several months ago when a 30-year-old civilian analyst discovered his true identity, sources said.
"If what you say is true, that was not a holy man," said an employee at the Sunni Rizvi Jamia mosque in Jersey City, where Muawia worshiped.
"They left and no one talked about them. No one said a word. I do not like thinking that was happening here," the worker said.
Muawia was arrested in May as the alleged gunman who killed Shia leader Mahmood Shah in Pakistan in 1997, sources said. He is in federal custody fighting deportation.
"It's 100% not true," said Muawia's lawyer Amy Nussbaum Gell. "They are using buzz words, like 'terrorist,' 'murder,' all because they think they can get away with railroading a Muslim kid," she said.
Gell said Muawia was cleared - in absentia - of the murder in a Pakistani trial in February. "They have nothing on this young man, other than he is Muslim," Gell said.
Immigration sources agreed with Muawia's lawyer.
"He was more of a lamb than a lion," said a federal immigration source familiar with Muawia's arrest.
But a law enforcement source countered that Muawia, 33, was never cleared in Pakistan, and did more than work the cash register at his brother-in-law's food store.
It's believed the three-aisle bodega laundered money for the terrorist organization Sunni Sipah-e-Sahaba/Pakistan (SSP).
Muawia was allegedly a favored assassin with the SSP, which has been blamed for the massacres of scores of Pakistani civilians as it pushed a pro-Sunni, anti-American agenda.
An SSP cell was first discovered in New York City in 2003, when investigators raided a Brooklyn apartment and found recruitment documents and membership forms, sources said.
Another SSP member was deported after being caught in 2004 photographing the Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges.
Federal immigration officials arrested Muawia's brother-in-law, Mumtaz Ahmed, 47, last October, as part of a money-laundering investigation, sources said. Muawia was arrested at the same time and charged with being in the country illegally. Ahmed was eventually deported, but Muawia was let go.
Aside from his brush with immigration, Muawia remained under the radar until the NYPD analyst began piecing together his history in February last year.
By March this year, the Ivy League analyst felt he had pulled together enough information to prove the Jersey City grocery clerk was the wanted assassin.
A month later, the NYPD tracked Muawia to Jersey City, and put him under surveillance. The NYPD contacted the Newark Joint Terrorism Task Force and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which arrested him in early May.