Man linked to mosque under FBI scrutiny
A writer for a former Pittsburgh Islamist magazine is connected to a Portland, Ore., mosque that is under FBI scrutiny with the arrest of its imam, or religious leader.
Tawfiq Tabib, 49, who wrote for an Islamist magazine published in Pittsburgh from 1991 to 2000, lives in the same apartment complex as Sheik Mohamed Abdirahman Kariye, who was arrested Sunday at Portland International Airport with one-way tickets to the United Arab Emirates.
Luggage carried by Kariye’s brother allegedly tested positive for traces of TNT. Kariye, the imam of the Islamic Center of Portland, was arrested on a sealed indictment issued last week by a grand jury.
Kariye, 40, a Somali native, was not charged with explosives-related violations. He pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of using false information while applying for and receiving three Social Security numbers between 1983 and 1985. A federal indictment also alleges that he used an altered birthdate in a 1998 application for political asylum.
In interviews conducted in Portland and Eugene, Ore., in July, sources told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that FBI agents consider the Islamic Center “one of the most radical mosques in the country.”
The sources, who insisted on anonymity, said Kariye associated with Tabib. The complex where they both live sits behind the Islamic Center, also known as Masjid As-Saber.
Tabib, a Jordanian-born sawmill employee, interviewed an Islamist mujahid (holy warrior) for Assirat Al-Mustaqeem (The Straight Path). The interview is well-known to counter-terrorism researchers and helped to establish Assirat’s reputation as a major international Islamist publication.
The Trib profiled Assirat, its calls for jihad and its connection to groups in several cities, including Portland, in a series of articles on Aug. 4. The magazine was distributed in North America, Europe and the Middle East.
Tabib was a business associate of one of the Portland mosque’s trustees and often visited with Kariye at his apartment, sources told the Trib.
The sources said the FBI based its characterization of the As-Saber mosque on interviews with disaffected worshippers shocked by its leadership’s internal statements following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Assirat published Tabib’s sympathetic interview of Abu Abdel Aziz “Barbarossa,” a prominent holy warrior from Saudi Arabia, in 1994. In it, Abdel Aziz glorified jihad and praised the Pittsburgh magazine for its interest in holy war. “I ask Allah to make you and I successful,” he said. “I ask Him to help the workers and those who support this newsletter to perform their religious duty of da’wah (Islamic propagation) and to publicize mujahideen news and jihad.”
He asked Assirat readers in that interview, and in a 1995 update, to donate money for holy war.
Gilles Kepel, a French expert on radical Islamic movements, cited Tabib’s interview in describing the international “jihadist-salafist” network in his book, “Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam.” Holy warriors such as Abdel Aziz transformed their experience fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan into a global jihad network, Kepel contends.
In the interview, Abdel Aziz lauded Dr. Abdullah Azzam, the ideological founder of al-Qaida. He described how the “joy of jihad overwhelmed our hearts” when the Soviets were pushed out of Afghanistan. “Indeed jihad will continue till the day of judgment,” he said. “We have to make jihad to make His word supreme, not for a nationalist cause, a tribal cause, a group feeling or any other cause,” Abdel Aziz declared.
Tabib, a president of the former mosque in Eugene, associates closely with leaders of the Portland mosque and formed a consulting firm with one of its trustees. Tabib’s ex-wife said in divorce papers that he “subscribes to … much more strict, fundamental, radical beliefs.” Tabib accused her of being an unbeliever because she refused to wear a veil and wore Western clothes, court records state.
Contacted by the Trib in July, Tabib refused to comment on the Abdel Aziz interview, stating: “I don’t think there are articles written today that are favorable to anyone.” He initially denied writing the interview for Assirat : “I didn’t write any articles for it. It’s dead two years now. I wish I could.”
He did not return a call for comment Tuesday.
Tabib is not the only Portland connection to Assirat . Mulhim El-Tayeb, a Sudanese, worked for the magazine in Pittsburgh and, according to a source familiar with its operation, controlled its money. He and a brother-in-law, Khalid Ayed, who also wrote for Assirat, shared a Portland address with an alleged associate of Wadih El-Hage, a top U.S. operative of Osama bin Laden, according to federal authorities.
El-Hage was convicted in 2001 of raising money for the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 244 people.
In a 1999 Assirat article, El-Tayeb urged readers to “keep jihad alive.” He also wrote that “love and hate should be based on faith. It is mandatory to love the believers and hate the infidels,” and he mourned the loss of jihad from Muslims’ lives: “When the mention of jihad vanished…the weakened Ummah (Muslim world community) was stricken: and there was love of life and hatred of death.”
Fawaz Gerges, a professor of Middle East politics at Sarah Lawrence College, New York, said El-Tayeb’s rhetoric reflects language found in al-Qaida recruitment tapes that featured Osama bin Laden. “This is what I call mobilization literature,” Gerges said.
A federal prosecutor in Portland said Sheik Kariye did not pay taxes in recent years and claimed to make little money — yet often traveled to the Middle East. A source told the Trib that the imam claimed in a financial statement to earn only $24,000 a year, but often had “lots of cash” on hand.
Kariye had “several thousand dollars” and a checkbook in a different name when arrested, authorities contend.