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Arkansas Shooter Studied Under Yemeni Radicals

June 4, 2009

Arkansas Shooter Studied Under Yemeni Radicals

IPT News
June 2, 2009

The investigation into the man accused of killing an Army recruiter and wounding a second soldier Monday in Little Rock, Ark. may lead to a Salafi preacher in Yemen’s tribal area, the Investigative Project on Terrorism has learned.

Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, a convert to Islam, is accused of killing William Long and wounding Quinton Ezeagwula outside an Army recruiting center. He is charged with one count of murder and 15 counts of committing terrorist acts. Police found several types of guns in Muhammad’s black Ford Sport Trac, including what is believed to be the murder weapon.

“Mr. Muhammad stated that he was mad at the U.S. Military because of what they had done to Muslims in the past,” the police report said. He fired on the two victims after seeing them outside the Army office smoking. He would have shot more people, he told police, if he had seen them. Some of his shots did go into the recruiting center, where 15 people were inside.

Police confiscated hundreds of rounds of ammunition, an SKS assault rifle and other guns from Muhammad’s truck.

ABC News reports that federal investigators “are engaged in an intense effort to reconstruct Muhammad’s path to extremism — and allegedly to murder — taking apart his life, examining his friendships, educational records, travel within the United States and possible contacts with extremists overseas.”

That path should lead to Dammaj, a tribal area of Yemen, and a madrassa run by a Salafi cleric named Yahya Hajuri, a knowledgeable source told the IPT. Muhammad wanted to study at Hajuri’s Al-Da’wah Center when he went to Yemen in early 2007.

He may have spent a couple of months in a Yemeni prison after being arrested for carrying a Somali passport and for overstaying his visa. In addition, Muhammad may have taken a Yemeni wife.

His arrest may have attracted FBI attention back home. ABC News also reported that Muhammad was the subject of a preliminary investigation following his return to the U.S.

Muhammad, 23, was born Carlos Bledsoe. He was a student at Tennessee State University in Nashville but dropped out of school after converting in 2004. He was urged by members of the local Muslim community to travel to Yemen, for more education. The Gulf nation is considered a hotbed for terrorists, and Muhammad may have been exposed to more radical ideas there.

Salafis strive to adhere to an austere form of Islam as it was practiced during the Prophet Muhammad’s time. Many Sunni terrorist movements, including Al Qaeda, are said to be Salafi influenced. Saudi Arabia’s Salafi ideology is better known as Wahhabism.

Hajuri was a protégé of Muqbil ibn Hadi, considered to be “a Salafi ideologue par excellence,” before his death in 2001, wrote Noorhaidi Hasan in his book Laskar Jihad. Ibn Hadi spent nearly 20 years studying in Saudi Arabia, but returned to Yemen after a prison term served after an attack on the Meccan sanctuary.

In 2000, Hasan wrote, ibn Hadi was among six clerics who issued a fatwa calling for jihad to protect Moluccan Island Muslims. Intense Muslim-Christian violence left thousands dead on both sides. It was compulsory for Indonesian Muslims to overthrow Christians on the islands, the fatwa said.

The Moluccan Muslim leadership was said to be close to the late Indonesian dictator Suharto.

Ibn Hadi left a will naming Hajuri as his successor.

Hajuri has an Arabic language website. In 2007, an Algerian reader asked about school children making the pledge of allegiance, singing the national anthem and saluting the flag in the morning. Such acts are prohibited in Islam, Hajuri wrote, because they are “polytheistic based on the statement of the Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace) ‘He who swears, shall swear to none save God.’ This abomination must be disavowed as far as one is able by tongue, or in his heart.”

Despite his confession, Muhammad entered a not guilty plea during an initial appearance in Little Rock court Tuesday.

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