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2 Michigan men arrested on terror plot (cont.)

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by poindexter, Aug 15, 2006.

  1. poindexter

    poindexter Well-Known Member

    Local probe may have federal link

    By Brad Bauer, bbauer@mariettatimes.com

    Airport security information and airline manifests were among the items seized from two Michigan men arrested Tuesday (August 8) in Marietta, now being held on felony terrorism charges.

    Federal authorities were working Wednesday evening to determine the significance of the documents.

    “We also found instructions detailing how to access certain airline databases,” said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks. “We passed all that information along to the FBI, and they’re reviewing it as we speak.”

    Although the findings have caused authorities some concern, the documents do not relate to terrorism charges filed Wednesday in Marietta Municipal Court against Osama Sabhi Abulhassan, 20, and Ali Houssaiky, 20, both of Dearborn, Mich. Those charges surround the purchase of TracFones the men were said to be buying in bulk across the mid-Atlantic states.

    Authorities say terrorist groups are illegally modifying the pre-paid cell phones to place untraceable international calls. Microchips in some of the phones are being shipped overseas for the production of roadside bombs.

    The men were arrested Tuesday after purchasing several phones at a Marietta business. Police said employees at the store called and reported being concerned by the suspicious purchase and the demeanor of the men. Officers responded and stopped Abulhassan and Houssaiky after observing a minor traffic violation, according to court records.

    A search of their vehicle led to the discovery of several phones and more than $11,000 in cash.

    Mincks said the men first told police the phones were for a family construction business. He said Abulhassan and Houssaiky later admitted they were taking the microchips from the phones and selling them to an individual in Dearborn. That individual, whose name was not released, is the target of an ongoing FBI terrorist investigation, Mincks said.

    Dearborn is a known location of several terrorist cells and most recently has been the site of rallies in support of the Islamic terrorist group, Hezbollah.

    A Dearborn police sergeant said he was not aware of any reports or investigations surrounding TracFones.

    According to court records, this is the first time the men have been charged with a serious crime.

    Mincks said Abulhassan and Houssaiky admitted to buying more than 600 of the phones in Ohio over the past few weeks.

    In their vehicle were maps detailing the location of stores where the phones can be purchased from Michigan, through Ohio and as far south as the Carolinas.

    Each phone costs about $20.

    “We know these cell phone chips are being used as a means for detonating roadside bombs and that people from Dearborn, Mich., are coming to this area to buy them,” Mincks said. “They’ve bought between 600 and 1,000 of these phones and they’ve giving phony names, had people poised as lookouts at businesses when they were buying them, and were evasive and lied when they were questioned about it by our officers. I think we can say for certain that something isn’t exactly right.”

    Abulhassan and Houssaiky are being held in the Washington County Jail on $200,000 bond, each charged with fourth-degree felony money laundering in support of terrorism. A bond hearing and arraignment is scheduled for 1 p.m. today in Marietta Municipal Court.

    Each man faces up to 18 months in jail and $5,000 in fines, if convicted.

    During an initial court appearance Wednesday, Abulhassan was made aware of the terrorism charges. Initially, the men were only being held on misdemeanor charges of obstructing official business. Those charges were dismissed when the felonies were filed.

    “I was told I was being held on obstruction,” Abulhassan said. “Is there a bond?”

    Houssaiky had already been served with the new charges by the time he appeared. He briefly answered questions about his legal residence and education, and did not question the new charges.

    The men have been held separately since their 2 p.m. Tuesday arrest.

    Both men claimed to be life-long residents of Michigan and said they are enrolled in college. Abulhassan said he is a junior at the University of Michigan and Houssaiky claimed to be a student at Wayne State University.

    Assistant Washington County Prosecutor Susan Vessels called the men flight risks and asked Dyar-Welch to set a high bond.

    “These men are linked to terrorist activity and are an extreme flight risk,” Vessels argued. “I would ask bond be set at $1 million. Ideally, the state would prefer no bond be issued.”

    Vessels declined to elaborate further on her terror allegations, saying her case is still in its infancy.

    Marietta Municipal Court Judge Janet Dyar-Welch said she would revisit bond at today’s hearing and that she expected more evidence from the state in order to keep a higher bond set in the case.

    Abulhassan and Houssaiky each requested the court-appointed public defenders.
  2. "Dearborn is a known location of several terrorist cells ..."

    Talk about burying your lede.
  3. Riddick

    Riddick Active Member

    i was thinking the exact same thing
  4. three_bags_full

    three_bags_full Well-Known Member

    Props to the employees who alerted the authorities. That's what it's going to take to beat the terrorists, IMO.
  5. "Assistant Washington County Prosecutor Susan Vessels called the men flight risks and asked Dyar-Welch to set a high bond.

    “These men are linked to terrorist activity and are an extreme flight risk,” Vessels argued. “I would ask bond be set at $1 million. Ideally, the state would prefer no bond be issued.”

    Vessels declined to elaborate further on her terror allegations, saying her case is still in its infancy."

    "In its infancy."? This is really bad writing.
    So she has no case yet but she knows these guys "are linked to terrorist activity."
    Talk to me when the notice of dismissal is written up on page 29 in six months, preferably by someone else.
  6. poindexter

    poindexter Well-Known Member

    Authorities targeting import/export businessmen?

    Phone cases: Not terror

    FBI: No Mackinac plot; Ohio cops to drop charges

    Paul Egan, Ronald J. Hansen and Gregg Krupa / The Detroit News

    Movie of the Month

    What's next
    Two Dearborn men are expected to be released from jail in Ohio following a court hearing today.
    Three Texas men arrested in Caro, Mich., and charged with supporting terrorism on Saturday remain in custody and are scheduled to appear in court Wednesday. Their lawyer said he will seek their release today.

    Previous reports
    Big Mac patrols stepped up
    Plot may have targeted Mackinac Bridge
    Three men arraigned in Michigan after suspicious cell phone purchases
    3 arrested on terror charges

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    Two alleged terrorism cases involving men of Middle Eastern descent and bulk purchases of cell phones were in tatters Monday, and Arab-American leaders said the arrested men were victims of racial profiling.

    The FBI and Michigan State Police said Monday there is no evidence linking three Texas men arrested in Caro, Mich., to terrorism or a plot to blow up the Mackinac Bridge.

    And in Ohio, federal authorities said they were dropping felony terrorism charges against two Arab-American men from Dearborn.

    Both cases were prompted by suspicions the men aroused after buying large quantities of cellular telephones. Arab-American leaders and others said discounted cell phones are frequently bought and resold to make money.

    "Are we coming to an era of ultrasensitivity that because a person's identity is Arab or of a Middle Eastern background or the Muslim faith that the first thing on the list is terrorism-related?" asked Imad Hamad, regional director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

    Tuscola County Prosecutor Mark E. Reene on Saturday charged three Texas men with supporting terrorism after their purchases of large quantities of cellular telephones alarmed a Wal-Mart clerk in Caro, in Michigan's Thumb.

    When stopped by police, Maruan Awad Muhareb, 18, Adham Abdelhamid Othman, 21, and Louai Abdelhamied Othman, 23, had about 1,000 cell phones and photographs of the Mackinac Bridge in their van, officials said.

    Reene said Saturday he believed the men were targeting the bridge that links Michigan's lower and upper peninsulas.

    But on Monday, Daniel Roberts, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Detroit office, said "there is no information to indicate that the individuals arrested have any direct nexus to terrorism."

    And Michigan State Police Director Peter Munoz discounted the idea the men were plotting against the 8,614-foot suspension bridge. Reene was studying the FBI statement, an official in his office said, but had not responded to it by late Monday. He did not return phone calls to his office and home. The men remained in custody and the charges had not been dropped.

    Blown out of proportion?

    Nabih Ayad, lawyer for the men, said he would seek emergency relief today to have bail lowered and the charges dropped. He said he would use the statements from the FBI and state police as evidence that the three men had no terrorist intent.

    Ayad said the trio traveled to 20 states to buy phones because the same model is much more expensive in Texas and because many stores limit the number customers may purchase.

    "They were in Wisconsin and they drove to the U.P. and then down here," Ayad said. "The Mackinac Bridge was an amusement to them. On the camera there's 50 pictures, 20 of the bridge. The rest are a deer, ducks, flowers and trees."

    Ayad said there had already been repercussions for the families of the men in Dallas. "People are driving by and yelling, calling them terrorists," he said.

    In Marietta, Ohio, felony terrorism charges will be dropped against two American-born Dearborn men, Sobhi Abulhassan and Ali Houssaiky, both 20, according to a press release from the prosecutor's office.

    A Washington County, Ohio, prosecutor said the men still face misdemeanor charges of falsification stemming from inconsistent initial accounts during a traffic stop last week in rural Marietta. Attorney Raymond Smith, who is defending Abulhassan, said there is no evidence the men are terrorists.

    "It's been blown way out of proportion," he said.

    Lawsuit possible

    In a written statement, Abulhassan's family maintained their son was trying to earn money for college and suggested they may sue the authorities who brought the case.

    Both men were top students and athletes at Fordson High School in Dearborn and have been in the Washington County Jail for a week.

    Similar cases involving suspicious bulk purchases of cell phones by men of Middle Eastern descent in Texas and California were investigated by the FBI in the last year and determined to have no connection with terrorism.
  7. poindexter

    poindexter Well-Known Member

    Though it makes sense to be cautious, "it sounds more likely that it is a commercial venture," said Jean-Robert Leguey-Feilleux, a political science professor and expert on Mideast terrorism at St. Louis University.

    It's true cellular telephones can be used to detonate bombs, but why would terrorists need to purchase so many at one time in a manner that would be likely to arouse suspicion, Leguey-Feilleux asked.

    "I doubt very much that many bombs would be on an assembly line," he said.

    Osama Siblani, executive director of the Council of Arab American Organizations and the publisher and editor of the Arab American News, said the Tuscola County charges are unfounded.

    "To think that these men are wanting to blow up the Mackinac Bridge, just because they are Arab men with some cell phones," Siblani said. "How silly."

    Moneymaking schemes

    Mike Newman, vice president of ReCellular Inc. in Dexter, said certain companies will sell prepaid telephones at a loss because the phones are programmed so they only can be used with that particular company's telephone calling cards.

    Newman said he's heard of a possibly illegal scheme involving middlemen who know how to unlock the software so the phones are no longer dependent on one company's calling cards or pre-paid services.

    Derek Hewitt, senior vice president of marketing for TracFone in Miami, said similar schemes in which his company's phones are bulk-purchased and altered so they can be used without TracFone service "cause extensive losses" to his company.

    Manufacturers' concerns are the reason Wal-Mart limits cell phone sales to three phones per transaction, the company said in a statement.

    Tony Margis, deputy chief of police in Hemet, Calif., said a Target clerk became suspicious after Middle Eastern men tried to buy about 60 cell phones on New Year's Eve. The FBI investigation "found it was not nefarious," Margis said.
  8. Bob Cook

    Bob Cook Active Member

    They also took pictures of ducks and trees? The horror! Why isn't anyone investigating their attempt to hunt and log via cell-phone bomb? Get on it, people!
  9. Mystery_Meat

    Mystery_Meat Guest

    Ford: Bringing Down The Great Satan is Job One.
  10. A new entry to the SportsJournalists.com glossary:
    "Crossthreading" (See Also: Mystery Meat)
    Well-played, sir.
  11. JR

    JR Active Member

    My immediate response to that is, "Show me the money".
  12. Mystery_Meat

    Mystery_Meat Guest

    I work at a shop where synergy and convergence is stressed 24/7, so that was just a natural instinct.
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