DETROIT – A leader of a radical U.S. Sunni Islam group killed in a shootout with federal agents near Detroit repeatedly told followers that the government was the enemy and they must be willing to take on the FBI — even if it meant death, authorities said.
“You cannot have a nonviolent revolution,” Luqman Ameen Abdullah said, according to a 2008 conversation secretly recorded by a confidential FBI source.
Abdullah, 53, was killed Wednesday at a warehouse in Dearborn, where agents were attempting to arrest him on charges that included conspiracy to sell stolen goods and illegal possession and sale of firearms. He was one of 11 people named in a criminal complaint after a two-year investigation.
FBI spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold said Abdullah refused to surrender, fired a weapon and was killed by gunfire from agents.
The 43-page complaint described Abdullah as an extremist who believed the FBI bombed New York’s World Trade Center in 1993 and the Oklahoma City federal building two years later. Abdullah beat children with sticks at his Detroit mosque, the complaint claimed, and was trained with his followers in the use of firearms, martial arts and swords.
Neither Abdullah nor his co-defendants were charged with terrorism. But he was “advocating and encouraging his followers to commit violent acts against the United States,” FBI agent Gary Leone wrote in an affidavit filed with the complaint.
Three of the 11 people were still at large Thursday. The head of the FBI in Detroit, Andrew Arena, called a news conference for late Thursday morning and also planned to meet privately with the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan.
The FBI said Abdullah, also known as Christopher Thomas, was an imam, or prayer leader, of a radical group named Ummah whose primary mission is to establish an Islamic state within the U.S.
Abdullah told followers that it was their “duty to oppose the FBI and the government and it does not matter if they die” and to “simply shoot a cop in the head” if they wanted the officer’s bulletproof vest, Leon wrote.
The affidavit also said bombs, guns and even the recipe for TNT were among Abdullah’s regular topics with his allies. Group members and former members said they were “willing to do anything Abdullah instructs and/or preaches, even including criminal conduct and acts of violence,” the FBI agent wrote.
But that description doesn’t match what Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Michigan chapter, said he knew of Abdullah.
“He would open up the mosque to homeless people. He used to run a soup kitchen and feed indigent people,” Walid said. “I knew nothing of him that was related to any nefarious or criminal behavior.”
Walid said Abdullah had a wife and children. A phone number for the family had been disconnected.
Ummah believes that a separate Islamic state in the U.S. would be controlled by Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, formerly known as H. Rap Brown, who is serving a life sentence in a federal prison in Colorado for shooting two police officers in Georgia in 2000, Leone said.
Al-Amin, a veteran of the black power movement, started the group after he converted to Islam in prison.
“They’re not taking their cues from overseas,” said Jimmy Jones, a professor of world religions at Manhattanville College and a longtime Muslim prison chaplain. “This group is very much American born and bred.”
Abdullah’s mosque is in a brick duplex on a residential street in Detroit. A sign on the door in English and Arabic reads, in part, “There is no God but Allah.” The mosque was located elsewhere in the city until the property was lost in January because of unpaid taxes.
When the eviction took place, a search turned up empty shell casings and large holes in the concrete wall of a “shooting range,” Leone said.
Seven of the 10 people charged with Abdullah, including a state prison inmate, were in custody, the U.S. attorney’s office said. Another man not named in the complaint also was arrested.
The FBI built its case over two years with the help of confidential sources close to Abdullah who recorded conversations and participated in undercover operations involving the sale of furs, laptop computers, televisions, energy drinks and power tools.
Abdullah received at least 20 percent of any profit and claimed the “Prophet Muhammad said that it is okay to participate in theft; as long as that person prays, they are in a good state,” Leone wrote in the affidavit.
Imad Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Dearborn, said the FBI briefed him about the arrests.
“We know that this is not something to be projected as something against Muslims,” Hamad said.