This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/2394
September 21, 2006
Counterterrorism agents of the FBI and IRS raided what is believed to be one of the biggest Muslim charities in the United States on Monday, hauling away a truckload of documents and computers from its Southfield office.
The raid was based on sealed search warrants, but the charity's head of legal services, Ihsan Alkhatib, said the agents are investigating whether the charity conducted business in Iraq before the 2003 war in violation of legal sanctions against the country.
Alkhatib said Life for Relief and Development "did everything by the book.
"They knew the government was looking at them through a magnifying glass," he said.
Tax records show that Life raised about $10.6 million in 2004. The charity has distributed money in Pakistan, Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, and in the United States after Hurricane Katrina, among other places. A senior federal official with knowledge of investigations related to the raid said that agents are probing whether Life officials violated the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, a federal law that allows the government to prohibit economic activity with countries that are deemed security threats.
According to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, agents are investigating whether Life may have illegally distributed money and medical supplies inside Iraq.
Agents of the FBI and IRS seized cabinet files and hard drives from the office of Life, a nonprofit group that Muslim leaders say is the biggest Islamic charity headquartered in Michigan.
Southfield police and Michigan State Police officers were also at the scene Monday.
Federal agents also raided the Ypsilanti home of the charity's chief executive officer, Khalil Jassemm, and the Dearborn office of Muthanna Alhanooti, a former official of the charity who has ties to an Islamic party in Iraq.
No one was arrested.
The agents were from the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and they spent hours interviewing Jassemm, as well as Life's office manager, Kudama Kaluan, accountant Nael Zenhom, and marketing manager Mohammed Abaza, Alkhatib said.
The raids are part of a major effort by the FBI and other federal agencies to investigate the flow of money from the United States to terrorist groups in the Muslim world, current and former FBI agents said Monday.
"It's logical to assume that many Islamic terrorist organizations have representation here in the U.S., and sources of funding," said Christopher Hamilton, a former FBI agent who investigated terrorism cases and is now a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, based in Washington, D.C.
Many of the efforts of counterterrorism officials in southeastern Michigan focus on how money from the region ends up in Middle Eastern and other Muslim countries such as Iran and Pakistan.
Earlier this year, the Treasury Department shut a charity based in Toledo, with Michigan ties, for alleged links to Hamas.
And the FBI said in May that the owner of the La Shish chain of restaurants, Talal Chahine, raised money for Hizballah through a charity in Lebanon that has an office in Dearborn.
Last month, Alhanooti left Life for Relief and Development to consider being the U.S. representative of the Iraqi Islamic Party.
Another Life official, Mohammed Alomari, was involved with Sunni political parties in Iraq, say charity officials.
Founded in 1992, the charity was started by Iraqi-American Sunnis who said they were concerned about the plight of Iraqis and the effect of United Nations sanctions imposed after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, according to charity officials.
Life officials have traveled to Iraq often over the years and had an office that distributed aid after the fall of Saddam Hussein's government in 2003, say charity officials.
Coming days before the start of Ramadan, the raids concerned some Muslims in metro Detroit, but some said they were not surprised.
"The community was expecting to give Ramadan gifts, but we're wondering, who's next" to be raided, Jassemm said. "And apparently, Life is next."
The raids were based on several search warrants that dealt with possible violations of criminal laws, said FBI spokeswoman Dawn Clenney. Affidavits filed in support of the warrants have been sealed.
Life for Relief and Development is actively involved in metro Detroit's Arab-American and Muslim communities. It is part of the Congress of Arab American Organizations.
And the Life group has worked with and donated supplies to the Michigan branch of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
The head of the committee, Imad Hamad, urged the public not to rush to judgment.
But federal agents say they worry whether the group may have violated federal laws.
The group can still operate, but Alkhatib said that will be hard to do because they have no computers and hard drives.
Contact NIRAJ WARIKOO at 248-351-2998 or [email protected].
FBI raid on Missouri Muslim leader linked to Michigan case
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- A Muslim leader and Iraq war opponent whose home was raided by the FBI says the agents told him they were interested in his links to a Michigan charity that also was searched.
Shakir Abdul-Kaf Hamoodi, a former University of Missouri-Columbia engineering professor who now owns a grocery store here, said Tuesday that agents were interested in his connection to the Southfield, Mich., Muslim organization Life for Relief and Development.
An FBI spokesman declined to reveal the reasons for the search. Hamoodi, who was provided a copy of the sealed search warrant, declined a request by The Associated Press to review the document.
A dozen agents arrived Monday at the Columbia home of Hamoodi and his wife, Lamya Mukhlef Najem, and removed boxes and computer equipment throughout the day.
Hamoodi said he was in Detroit on Monday but not working for the relief agency. When he asked agents if the search could wait until he returned to Missouri, they said no, citing the simultaneous search in Michigan, he said.
Hamoodi said he cooperated with federal investigators.
"They came in, asked questions, I told them the answers and they left," he told the Columbia Missourian. Hamoodi declined to specify what questions he was asked.
Hamoodi said he has worked as a paid organizer and fundraiser for the organization for several years. Though he travels throughout the country on its behalf, Hamoodi said he has not gone abroad with the organization.
The charity's head of legal services told the Detroit Free Press that the FBI wanted to find out whether the charity broke U.S. sanctions by doing business in Iraq before the war.
Hamoodi, 54, grew up in Anah, a town in central Iraq, and lived in Scotland and France before moving to Columbia 21 years ago. He earned a doctorate in nuclear engineering from the University of Missouri-Columbia before working as an assistant research professor for the school's College of Engineering.
Hamoodi now owns the World Harvest market, and his wife teaches at an Islamic school in Columbia. He has made several appearances in opposition to the war in Iraq, and the couple's home was recently defaced with graffiti.
Hamoodi said he plans to continue speaking out against the war. The father of five children _ ages 9 to 19 and all born in Columbia _ also offered a heartfelt plea to his friends, customers and neighbors.
"I want to assure them that at no time, under any circumstances, do they need to expect any harm from me and my family members to this country," he said. "I have done nothing wrong."
On Tuesday afternoon, a steady stream of customers appeared at Hamoodi's store to offer their support. Many more called and showed up unannounced at his home Monday night, he said.
The search of Hamoodi's home came three days after a community meeting at which local Muslims raised concerns about racial profiling and an October 2004 FBI raid of the Islamic American Relief Agency's U.S. headquarters in Columbia.
Hamoodi, who attended the meeting, said the search warrant was dated Sept. 12 _ meaning FBI agents knew about the impending raid even as they vowed to work with the Muslim community.
"What they did (Monday) has really nullified everything they did Friday," he said.
The U.S. Treasury Department has linked the Islamic American Relief Agency to the Sudan-based Islamic African Relief Agency, which they say has ties to Osama Bin Laden, al-Qaida and Hamas. No one has been charged in that case.
Dr. Abdulwahab Asmarai
|Dr. Khalil Jassem||Chief Executive Officer|
|Dr. Farok Hamod||Board Member|
|Dr. Mujahid Al-Fayadh||Board Member|
|Dr. Baha Alak||Board Member|
Dr. Mohammad Altai
Dear Respective Donor,
On behalf of LIFE's Board of Director's, employees, and beneficiaries, allow me to express a genuine gratitude to each Donor, without whom this organization would not function nor deliver the much needed assistance for those less fortunate than ourselves.
Due to worsening conditions in a number of areas, we have significantly expanded our outreach and contribution to increasing numbers of war-torn and disaster areas and established additional offices globally. Consequently, the statistics on the number of lives LIFE affected in 2005 has climbed sharply. With the occurrence and impact of such tragedies as the Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and the earthquake that struck Pakistan, 2005 has proven to be especially harsh. LIFE managed to collect over $22 million in various forms of donations and spent over $28 million to aid the countless injured, homeless, and destitute. It is worthy to note that this amount has more than doubled since 2004.
Living in a dynamic world and adjusting to its fast-paced and often cruel demands is critical to survival. Our most immediate strategic planning involves focusing on and planning for, the establishment of a more concrete foundation from which to create human development programming. This will inevitably result in educating and instilling in others the capacity to independently arrive at self-sufficiency, along with assisting efforts that lead to the construction of stronger infrastructures for areas most in need while building orphanages to assist the most helpless of children. This vision requires motivated and stable planning efforts. A number of mature Donors and charitable entities possess the awareness that emergency relief is only the beginning of rebuilding and definitely not the end. We hope that our highly committed Donors will look deep in their hearts, and in addition to the bountiful giving for emergency response, make the commitment to support the self-sufficiency of human beings, as the only true and effective means of poverty reduction.
We at LIFE fully understand the global impact of 9/11. To this day 9/11's consequences, are directly or indirectly, felt by all; charity sectors, particularly Muslim charities, have been under intense pressure. This simultaneously creates a challenge and opportunity that we at LIFE are determined to pro-actively handle as an asset and not a liability. We would like to assure our Donors that the United States has not become anti-charity, but without a doubt, continues to be the most generous country in the world. Our Donors must also understand that they can and should continue to do their part in goodness. However, I urge them to contribute to charities that are legally registered, routinely hold themselves accountable, and practice wise and sound methods for their expenditures as they manage their incoming and outgoing resources.
LIFE is a non-governmental organization (NGO) in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations and has worked with many different UN-affiliated NGO's such as UNICEF, The Church of Latter Day Saints, Brother's Brother, the Wheelchair Foundation, Veterans for Peace, AmeriCares, and many more.
Last but not least, I thank LIFE staff world-wide who on a daily basis put their lives on the line, and see to it that shipments of food, medicine, and supplies, paid for by our Donors, safely and effectively meet the desperate need of so many. Thank you again for your cooperation, dedication and generous hearts. With your continued labor and devotion to the alleviation of human suffering, we can and will continue to present options and hope to those who world-wide live without either.
Dr. Khalil Jassemm
This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/2394