Last week, underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab pleaded guilty for trying to murder 289 innocent civilians on Christmas Day 2009: he claimed he is guilty under U.S. law, but innocent under Islamic law. Earlier this month, North Carolina resident and al-Qaeda English-language propagandist Samir Khan met his end in a drone strike targeting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader Anwar al-Awlaki, former imam at the Dar al-Hijrah terrorist factory in Falls Church, Virginia.
Both Abdulmutallab and Khan had connections to Awlaki, but they also had one additional tie: they were both former members of the extremist AlMaghrib Institute. (I first wrote about AlMaghrib’s extremist teaching back in February 2007.) With Khan’s death and Abdulmutallab’s guilty plea, the pair join a long line of terrorist operatives who have graduated from “Jihad U.”
Samir Khan’s connection to AlMaghrib goes back to at least October 2004, when his profile on AlMaghrib’s online forums was established (his profile is still online).
According to CNN, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab flew to Houston and attended a 16-day AlMaghrib seminar featuring hate sheikh Yasir Qadhi and dedicated to teaching young Muslims “the nuts and bolts of Islam.” A Houston TV station reported that sermon audio sets by Anwar al-Awlaki were on sale during the conference. Abdulmutallab also attended two additional AlMaghrib events held in the UK.
Here are some other AlMaghrib Institute alumni who’ve turned to terror:
- Daniel Maldonado was arrested by Kenyan authorities traveling with Somali al-Shabaab operatives. He was convicted of training with a foreign terrorist organization and sentenced to 10 years in prison. His AlMaghrib profile (under his convert name Daniel Aljughaifi) is still on their internet forums. I wrote about Maldonado’s connection to AlMaghrib back in June 2007.
- Nuradin Abdi was one of the founding leaders of the AlMaghrib Institute chapter in Columbus, Ohio, and was indicted in June 2004 as part of an al-Qaeda cell that was planning on attacking civilians in a shopping mall. He pleaded guilty to material support for a terrorist organization and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He will be deported after serving his sentence.
- Tarek Mehanna is currently awaiting trial on charges he conspired to kill U.S. troops in Iraq. A recent New York Times Magazine profile of AlMaghrib Dean of Academic Affairs Yasir Qadhi notes that Mehanna was a student of the program, but it attempts to distance Qadhi from Mehanna and the other terror graduates of AlMaghrib: “Qadhi said he had little or no interaction with these former students and that none had approached him for counsel.” In Mehanna’s case, that is demonstrably false. In a post published by Qadhi immediately after Mehanna’s arrest (which has now been removed, but is reprinted here), the AlMaghrib dean admits that Mehanna had written for his Muslim Matters website.
- The New York Times Magazine profile of Yasir Qadhi also notes that two members of the D.C.-area “Pakistan 5,” Ramy Zamzam and Waqar Khan, were part of the AlMaghrib program. Another member of the cell, Ahmed Minni, is also known to have been associated with AlMaghrib. The Pakistan 5 were arrested in December 2009 in Sargodha, Pakistan, attempting to join a terrorist group intent on fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan. One of the men had left behind a video tape announcing their intentions. They were tried in Pakistan and sentenced to 10 years. A January 2009 event announcement for an AlMaghrib seminar in Maryland shows Ramy Zamzam as the student services coordinator.
- Misbahuddin Ahmed was arrested in August 2010 in Canada as part of an Ottawa-based terror cell. In addition to promoting jihadist propaganda online, Ahmed and his sister were both members of AlMaghrib’s Montreal chapter, according to the Ottawa Citizen. Why the New York Times Magazine failed to include Ahmed in their AlMaghrib “roll of terror” is unknown.
- According to an Islamic leader in Canada, Sayyid Ahmed Amiruddin, several members of the Toronto 18 cell were active in the Al-Rahman Islamic Centre in Mississauga, which a CBC video report said is closely associated with AlMaghrib. One of the board members of the mosque was implicated in the plot. Amiruddin told the CBC that he watched as the suspects were radicalized, including entering his mosque dressed in military fatigues.