LEADER: Sheikh Mubarik Ali Jilani Hashemi
YEAR ESTABLISHED OR BECAME ACTIVE: 1980 (claimed by group)
ESTIMATED SIZE: 3,000 members
Al-Fuqra (also called Jamaat ul-Faqra), a Pakistani-based Muslim extremist sect, was formed by Sheikh Mubarik Ali Jilani Hashemi (commonly called Sheikh Jilani). The group, which terrorizes primarily with murders and fire-bombings, operates in Canada and the United States, but also is present in Pakistan, the Caribbean, Europe, and the Ivory Coast. The name al-Fuqra is derived from Arabic for al-fuqara, meaning "the impoverished."
According to a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) report, as stated in the article "Al-Fuqra," by the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT) Terrorism Knowledge Base, the group is actively pursuing its enemies, which include the governments of the United States, Canada, and Israel, along with the Hindus, Hare Krishnas, Jewish Defense League, and Nation of Islam. U.S. law enforcement officials are relatively certain that al-Fuqra headquarters is located in Hancock, New York.
During a first visit to the United States, Sheikh Jilani, a radical Pakistani cleric, found enthusiastic supporters for his new group inside an African-American mosque when he preached about the better life offered through Islam. The sect was subsequently formed in Brooklyn, New York, in 1980 by Sheikh Jilani, who asserts he is a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.
Sheikh Jilani formed Al-Fuqra in order to purify the Islamic religion—primarily through violence—after perceiving it to be contaminated due to western culture. After his recruiting drive, which involved many recruits from intercity areas and prisons, Sheikh Jilani initiated most followers into the international Islamist movement, specifically to fight in the holy war against the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan.
According to the 1993 article "Al-Fuqra: Holy Warriors of Terrorism." by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) have linked sect members, from 1980–1993, to 16 criminal and terrorist activities in the United States and Canada. During this time, Al-Fuqra, unlike many terrorist groups, did not publicly claim responsibility for its violent acts.
The earliest verified attack by Al-Fuqra members, according to the earlier reported ADL article, occurred in 1979 when attacks were made on a Hare Krishna temple in San Diego, California, an Islamic Cultural Center in Tempe, Arizona, and a Shi'ite Iranian mosque in Queens, New York.
However, its existence was first formally verified by the ATF in 1983 when Al-Fuqra began a series of attacks that it called its Jihad Council for North America. The primary verification occurred at the arrest (and later conviction) of Stephen Paster, a leading Al-Fuqra member. Law enforcement officials found materials inside Paster's home to build pipe bombs. A later raid found handguns, semi-automatic pistols, and plans for electronic bombing mechanisms.
By the early 1990s, ample evidence had been collected by several state and federal U.S. law enforcement agencies, but primarily by the ATF, that Al-Fuqra had developed from a loosely based organization that bombed with crude explosives to a sophisticated network of organized cells whose members committed acts of fraud, violence, and murder using technologically advanced devices.
- First verified attack occurred that was committed by Al-Fuqra members.
- Al-Fuqra was founded by Sheikh Mubarak Ali Jilani Hashemi in Brooklyn, New York.
- The group's existence was verified by U.S. law enforcement officials.
- Firebombing attacks occurred at Hare Krishna temples in Denver and Philadelphia and at Hindu and Sikh religious institutions in Seattle.
- Attack occurred on a Laotian temple in Rockford, Illinois.
- The sect killed a doctor in Augusta, Georgia.
- Al-Fuqra members murdered Rashad Khalifa, leader of the Islamic Center in Tucson, Arizona.
- Al-Fuqra comes under intense investigation for planning the bombing of the World Trade Center.
- Al-Fuqra is linked to Richard Reid (the Shoe Bomber).
- Al-Fuqra is linked to the kidnapping of reporter Daniel Pearl.
The group came under additional investigation when it was accused in U.S. Congressional testimony, as reported in the 2001 article "Jamaat ul-Fuqra" by the South Asia Terrorism Portal, of planning the February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City. One Al-Fuqra member, Clement Rodney Hampton-el, was convicted of the crime. The group was also implicated in the abduction of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl (after Pearl attempted to meet with Sheikh Khalifa in Karachi, Pakistan, in January 2002) and linked with Richard Reid (the "Shoe Bomber," who was convicted of using explosives in the attempted destruction of a Paris-to-Miami aircraft in December 2001).
PHILOSOPHY AND TACTICS
Al-Fuqra members refer to themselves as "Soldiers of Allah," although earlier they called themselves "Muhammad Commandos." Its ideology is based on the belief that all peoples (both Muslims and non-Muslims) are enemies if they do not follow Islam as dictated by the Koran. A paper written by Sheikh Jilani (found during a 1991 raid by the Colorado Attorney General's Office) instructed Al-Fuqra members to engage in Jihad (holy war) against Muslim persecutors.
Its philosophy requires violence against any person, organization, and country with whom it disagrees. For example, during the 1980s, the sect participated in the Afghan war against the Soviet Union. In the 1990s and 2000s, Al-Fuqra members concentrated on terrorism against the United States, which included attacks against Jewish leaders, Hindu religious buildings, and U.S. and Canadian businesses. Its Pakistani activities were centered near the border of the Kashmir province of India where it aided Muslim separatists.
The sect is organized into cells; each is assigned a geographic location. Because U.S. and Canadian criminal activities of Al-Fuqra are especially strong in certain areas, it is conjectured, according to analysts at the MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base, that these cells are centered around Brooklyn (New York), Baltimore (Maryland), Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), Tucson (Arizona), Portland (Oregon), Colorado (specifically in Denver and Colorado Springs), and Toronto (Canada).
Specter of Terror; Clinton Administration Has No Plans to Arrest Sheik Now
With the help of a confidential informer operating inside a suspected bombing ring, Federal agents recorded many private conversations of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the fiery Egyptian cleric who has been blamed for inspiring terrorism in Egypt and the United States. But after reviewing those recordings the Clinton Administration does not plan for now to arrest Mr. Abdel Rahman, law-enforcement officials said yesterday.
The decision comes as law-enforcement and Administration officials debate how to proceed with Mr. Abdel Rahman. Senior officials in New York and Washington said the tapes did not reveal enough information to justify an arrest. But others said enough evidence could have been marshaled, but there was a desire to allow Mr. Abdel Rahman to remain free because the Government gains important intelligence about Muslim radicals by watching the people attracted to him as he works from his mosque in Jersey City.
Federal officials continued to gather evidence yesterday, raiding a large, wooded compound with a shooting range in Perry County, Pa., about 35 miles west of Harrisburg, where some of the suspects used the target range and practiced military tactics. The Sunday Patriot-News of Harrisburg said eight F.B.I and United States Navy cars pulled into the compound shortly after noon. A team of Navy divers spent about five hours scouring a small pond, the paper said. F.B.I. officials would not say what they were looking for or whether they found anything.
The owner of the compound, Kelvin Smith, who said he worked for the United State Department of the Interior, told The Patriot-News he had cooperated fully with the agents. He said he did not know any of the suspects.
The informant who helped break up a major bomb plot last week was a close aide to Mr. Abdel Rahman and worked as a translator and bodyguard for him. It is unclear whether he got the tapes through a hidden body recorder or on the telephone, or whether certain locations were set up for audio surveillance. Six of the eight men arrested on Thursday in a plot to bomb the United Nations, the Federal Building and two tunnels were followers of Mr. Abdel Rahman. The man described by law-enforcement officials as the ring leader of the bomb plot also worked as a translator for Mr. Abdel Rahman.
New details, meanwhile, continued to emerge about the eight arrested suspects and at least three confederates known to investigators and about the enigmatic informer working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation who was credited with exposing the plot. Ties to Radical Group.
One suspect, Clement Rodney Hampton-El, was described by New York City police detectives as having worked closely with a radical Black Muslim group called al-Fuqra. The detectives said Mr. Hampton-El is viewed as a religious leader among Black Muslims in Brooklyn and gave his blessing to violent crimes, from bank robberies to murders.
Investigators said that they were aware of at least three other men who took part in the plot to varying degrees but that the men were not being sought or arrested at this time. The question of whether to charge the Egyptian cleric in the wake of last week's foiled plot has been hotly debated in meetings of law-enforcement officials in New York and Washington, officials said.
Mr. Abdel Rahman is wanted in Egypt for inciting a riot that left hundreds dead in Cairo four years ago. But Egyptian Government officials have made it clear that they do not really want the political trouble that would be touched off among his followers by extraditing Mr. Abdel Rahman back to Cairo. It is not known how the Egyptian Government would view a decision by the United States to arrest Mr. Abdel Rahman and to try him for crimes here.
Source: New York Times, 1993
Various Al-Fuqra compounds are located in remote U.S. and Canadian locations. Seven such compounds, according to law enforcement authorities, are located in the Catskill Mountains of New York, Combermere (Canada), Commerce (Georgia), Dover (Tennessee), north-central South Carolina, western Virginia, and Tulare County (California). The compounds isolate members from western society so members dedicate their lives to the Islamic faith and the Al-Fuqra political agenda. U.S. government officials contend that al-Fuqra also maintains a presence in other U.S. states.
In order to preserve the organization's structural core, different cell members never contact each other directly. Contact is usually made through telephone calls at prearranged times. The use of safe houses, figurehead organizations (such as Muslims of the Americas, Quranic Open University, and Professional Security International), aliases, and other cover-up techniques are regularly used. Sheikh Jilani and other members regularly deny the existence of the organization.
Muslims generally describe Al-Fuqra as an organization that performs helpful Islamic activities such as countering drug dealers, cleaning the community, and performing neighborhood watch patrols.
Supporters of Al-Fuqra declare that Sheikh Jilani has regularly told his followers that a Jewish plot to control the world is being formulated and in order to survive they must leave large cities and move into remote areas. These followers are simply following their leader's advice. In a similar line of thinking, members of Muslims of the Americas, when presented with accusations that Al-Fuqra is a terrorist organization, counter with statements that declare these accusations are only Jewish propaganda to unjustly target Muslims. Guns found by police in the possession of Al-Fuqra members are said to be used only for defensive protection against enemies.
On the other hand, Al-Fuqra members have frequently been convicted of U.S. and Canadian crimes, including conspiracy to commit murder, fire-bombing, racketeering, forgery, smuggling, and fraud. It has been reported that members are currently suspects in over 10 unsolved assassinations and over a dozen fire-bombings in the United States between 1979 and 1990.
U.S. law enforcement officials have collected evidence over the years showing that members of Al-Fuqra use dangerous equipment and materials. For example, during a police raid in Colorado Springs, as reported by the South Asia Terrorism Portal, 30 pounds of explosives (pipe bombs and components), armaments (handguns and semi-automatic firearms), military manuals, bomb-making instructions, plans of proposed targets (oil and gas installations and electric facilities), and Al-Fuqra publications ("Guerrilla Warfare") were found inside property owned by Al-Fuqra members.
Many newspapers in states where Al-Fuqra own compounds have reported on illegal activities by Al-Fuqra members. Among them, The Rocky Mountain News in Denver reported in 2002 that Sheikh Jilani was linked to the kidnapping of journalist Daniel Pearl, along with a wide range of illegal activities throughout Colorado.
In Virginia, ATF officials found that members of Muslims of the Americas were illegally buying guns for Al-Fuqua. Later, ATF agent Tom Gallagher described on July 1, 2002 in the article "Militant Muslims Seek Virginia Base" in The Washington Times that al-Fuqra is a "violent, black Muslim extremist sect that acts out jihads against perceived enemies."
Susan Fenger, a former chief criminal investigator, said within the article "Muslim Terrorists Convicted on Firearms Charges in the U.S." from the The Roanoke Times on December 1, 2001, that the group shows a peaceful side to the public but, in reality, it is set up to defraud various U.S. government agencies.
In the early 2000s, U.S. intelligence experts reported that al-Fuqra was found to be a splinter group of Jaish-e-Mohammed (Army of Mohammed), an Islamic extremist group based in Pakistan, along with having direct contact to Al-Qaeda, an international network of Islamist organizations headed by Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.
At this time, Al-Fuqra was thought by these experts to possess about 3,000 members, many militarily trained in Pakistan and living in rural compounds in 19 U.S. states, the Caribbean, and Europe. Within the United States, Al-Fuqra members are suspected of at least 13 fire bombings and 17 murders, as well as various cases of theft and fraud.
Sheikh Jilani left the United States for Lahore, Pakistan, after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. As of 2004, Sheikh Jilani, who remains the Al-Fuqra leader, continues under investigation by the U.S. government for his alleged links to Al-Qaeda, ties to Pakistan's Interservice Intelligence Agency, and laundering of money between the United States and Pakistan.
Brennan, Charlie. "Al-Fuqra Tied To Colorado Crimes: Leader Owned Land In Buena Vista; Followers Convicted In Bombing Of Krishna Temple." The Rocky Mountain News. February 12, 2002.
McCaffery, Jen. "Muslim Terrorists Convicted on Firearms Charges in the U.S." The Roanoke Times. December 1, 2001.
Sale, Richard. "Pakistan ISI Link to Pearl Kidnap Probed." United Press International. January 29, 2002.
Seper, Jerry, and Steve Miller. "Militant Muslims Seek Virginia Base." The Washington Times. July 1, 2002.
Thomas, Jo, and Ralph Blumenthal. "Rural Muslims Draw New, Unwanted Attention." The New York Times. January 3, 2002.
Anti-Defamation League. "Al-Fuqra: Holy Warriors of Terrorism." 〈http://www.adl.org/extremism/moa/al-fuqra.pdf〉 (September 21, 2005).
Anti-Defamation League. "Muslims of the Americas: In Their Own Words." 〈http://www.adl.org/extremism/moa/default.asp〉 (September 21, 2005).
MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base, National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism. "Terrorist Group Profile: Al-Fuqra." 〈http://www.tkb.org/Group.jsp?groupID=3426〉 (September 21, 2005).
South Asia Terrorism Portal. "Jamaat ul-Fuqra." 〈http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/pakistan/terroristoutfits/jamaat-ul-fuqra.htm〉 (September 21, 2005).