What could be a more important story to Canadians than that of Jihadists and their supporters in our midst? And yet, aside from a few good investigative reporters (the National Post’s Stewart Bell is the only one that comes to mind right now), the attention paid to the problem in our media is minimal at best. So I will attempt to fill some of the void with posts on this blog, under the category “Terror in our Midst”.
Hizb’Allah (more commonly whitewashed as “Hezbollah” to downplay the religious Islamic connotations of its literal meaning, “Party of Allah”) is Iran’s proxy army in Lebanon, whose aim is to spread the radical Shi’a Islamist revolution throughout the Middle East, and to destroy Israel. Banned as a terrorist organization in the United States and Canada, it has nonetheless become brazen in promoting its cause on the streets of North American cities in the past year (the photo above is from a pro-Hizb’Allah rally in Toronto that I attended as a counter-protestor last summer.)
There are also proven cases of Hizb’allah raising funds and other material support here in recent years. One such case was a major racketeering bust in Dearborn, Michigan last March 29, in which ten were arrested and eight were indicted in absentia. Details of the indictment and arrests can be found here: http://detroit.fbi.gov/dojpressrel/pressrel06/de032906a.htm
The Canadian connection?
Arrested this morning by members of the Detroit Joint Terrorism Task Force (“JTTF”) were: Karim Hassan Nasser, 37, of Windsor, Ontario; Fadi Mohamad-Musbah Hammoud, 33, of Dearborn, Mich.; Majid Mohamad Hammoud, 39, of Dearborn Heights, Mich.; Jihad Hammoud, 47, of Dearborn, Mich.; Youssef Aoun Bakri, 36, of Dearborn Heights, Mich.; Ali Najib Berjaoui, 39, of Dearborn, Mich.; Mohammed Fawzi Zeidan, 41, of Canton, Mich.; Imad Majed Hamadeh, 51, of Dearborn Heights, Mich.; Adel Isak, 37, of Sterling Height, Mich.
Also named in the indictment, but not arrested today because they currently reside outside of the United States were Imad Mohamad-Musbah Hammoud, 37 of Lebanon, formerly of Dearborn, Mich.; Hassan Ali Al-Mosawi, 49, of Lebanon; Hassan Hassan Nasser, 36, of Windsor, Ontario; Ali Ahmad Hammoud, 64, of Lebanon; Karim Hassan Abbas, 37, formerly of Dearborn, Mich.; Hassan Mohamad Srour, 30, of Montreal, Quebec; Naji Hassan Alawie, 44, of Windsor, Ontario; and Abdel-Hamid Sinno, 52, of Montreal, Quebec.Theodore Schenk, 73, of Miami Beach, Fla. was not arrested today but will be voluntarily surrendering himself for arraignment on April 10, 2006.
On September 20, 2006, news came across the wire that no one seemed to report on in Canada: Karim Hassan Nasser, the one indicted Canadian arrested in the Dearborn sting, pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in relation to the Hizb’Allah fundraising plot, and faces up to 20 years in U.S. prison. The story was picked up by the International Herald Tribune, “Canadian linked to U.S. smuggling ring pleads guilty” :
The indictment alleged that from 1996 to 2004, the group ran a multimillion-dollar cigarette-trafficking ring out of Dearborn, Michigan. It purchased low-taxed or untaxed cigarettes from North Carolina and a New York Indian reservation and resold them in Michigan and New York, making profits by evading state cigarette taxes, prosecutors said.
Besides trafficking in contraband and counterfeit goods, the group also transported stolen property and laundered money, Murphy said. The enterprise operated in Lebanon, Canada, China, Brazil and Paraguay in addition to the United States, he said.
Some members charged a “Resistance Tax” in excess of the contraband cigarettes’ black market price to fund Lebanon-based Hezbollah, which has been classified as a terrorist group by the U.S. government, Murphy said. They also solicited money for Hezbollah’s support of families of those killed in suicide bombings and other terrorist operations, he said.
Karim Hassan Nasser was unlucky enough to have been crossing into Michigan from Windsor on the day of the bust, was nabbed by immigration, and is now paying the price. His fellow Canadian indicted co-conspirators were luckier, having been in Canada on the day of the arrests. Nearly a year later, I have found no stories indicating the arrests of the four fugitives, nor any info indicating a request for extradition from the United States. The question now is: where in the world are Hassan Hassan Nasser, fellow Windsorite Naji Hassan Alawie, and the two Montrealers, Hassan Mohamad Srour and Abdel-Hamid Sinno? Has the RCMP not been able to find them? Are they at large in the streets of Canada, raising more funds for Hizb’Allah? Are they lying low, being protected by other Hizb’Allah sympathizers? Are they back in Lebanon, participating in Nasrallah’s attempted coup? Inquiring Canadian minds would like to know.
Just after the bust last March, Hassan Hassan Nasser and Naji Hassan Alawie were answering their phones at their Windsor homes. From a March 31, 2006 story in the Windsor Star by Chris Thompson:
Terror probe shocks local men
Two Windsor men wanted by the FBI in connection with an alleged smuggling operation that helped fund a Lebanese terrorist organization were shocked to see their names connected to the ring Thursday.
“I have no response to anything right now,” said Naji Hassan Alawie, 44, who was one of 19 people named in the indictment released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Eastern Michigan Wednesday.
“I don’t know what’s going on.”
Alawie read his name in a front-page story in The Windsor Star Thursday morning.
“This is something serious,” said Alawie. “I don’t know why my name is there.”
Alawie owns seven city taxi licences and operates cabs for Veteran Cab.
Alawie was one of the organizers of an anti-union demonstration in front of CAW Local 195 headquarters on Somme Avenue on Feb. 23 that turned violent.
“He’s the guy who called us terrorists,” said CAW Local 195 president Mike Renaud.
Alawie was a member of the Veteran Cab bargaining committee, Renaud said.
Alawie said he has not been contacted by U.S. authorities and is considering retaining a lawyer.
The indictment alleges that the organization smuggled low-tax or tax-free cigarettes from North Carolina and a New York State native reserve into Michigan and other states.
They also dealt in counterfeit cigarette tax stickers, counterfeit Viagra tablets, counterfeit Zig Zag cigarette rolling papers and stolen goods including socks, toilet paper and baby formula, according to the indictment.
The profits from the ring were allegedly sent to Hezbollah, a Lebanese resistance group that has claimed responsibility for suicide bombings.
Some of the funds raised in North America went to assist surviving family members and orphans of suicide bombers, the indictment said.
The indictment resulted from a grand jury in 2004 that looked into the group’s activities from 1996 until 2004.
The arrests began early Wednesday when another Windsor man, Karim Hassan Nasser, 37, attempted to enter the U.S. and his name was flagged on a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement computer.
Nasser was charged and released.
U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Susan Plochinski said she could not comment on any efforts to apprehend suspects outside the U.S.
Another Windsor man, Hassan Hassan Nasser, 36, is also named.
A man named Hassan Hassan Nasser contacted by The Star denied any involvement.
“You’re making it a lot bigger than it is for no reason,” said Nasser, who said he is 35.
He said he has been in Windsor since 1989 and works in the construction industry.
He said if authorities want him they know how to find him and said he has had no dealings with police while in Canada.
“If they want me they can come and get me,” said Nasser.
But he later denied being the man named.
“That’s not me,” said Nasser.
“I’ve got nothing to do with what they are saying.”
He also threatened legal action against The Star.
Nasser said Hassan is a common name in his native Lebanon and many men within the same family can have the same name.
“A name doesn’t mean anything,” said Nasser, who said he wanted no publicity.
I’ll keep digging on this story. In the meantime, if you want to express your concern, contact Canada’s Public Safety minister, Stockwell Day: Day.S@parl.gc.ca ph: 613-995-1702 fax: 613-995-1154 constituency office ph: 250-770-4480.