The FBI added a former D.C.-area cab driver to its list of Most Wanted Terrorists today, offering up to $50,000 for information that leads them to naturalized U.S. citizen Liban Haji Mohamed.
The Somali-born Mohamed is accused of not just providing support to al-Qaeda and al-Shabaab, but recruiting while he lived and worked in the Beltway.
Authorities are also concerned about what reconnaissance he may have done in the nation’s capital before leaving with his U.S. passport on or about July 5, 2012.
“Liban Mohamed is believed to have left the U.S. with the intent to join al-Shabaab in East Africa. We believe he is currently there operating on behalf of that terrorist organization,” said Carl Ghattas, special agent in charge of the Counterterrorism Division at the FBI’s Washington Field Office, in a statement.
The FBI said the 29-year-old speaks English, Arabic and Somali.
“While living in Northern Virginia, Mohamed was a recruiter and radicalizer for al Shabaab, which historically has targeted Westerners to go to Somalia and fight for them,” Ghattas said. “Not only did Mohamed choose to go to Somalia and fight with al Shabaab, he took a prominent role in trying to recruit people and have them train with weapons.”
The FBI is publicizing the case in Somali-language outlets as well, including this Facebook page set up to reap tips.
According to public records, a Liban H. Mohamed within the suspect’s age range lived at a Housing and Urban Development affordable housing complex, Strawbridge Square, next to Interstate 395 in Alexandria.
HUD policy states that the agency will “deny admission to any applicant whose habits and practices may be expected to have a detrimental effect on other tenants or on the project’s environment.”
Mohamed possesses a U.S. passport that expires in 2018.
The FBI said he was a “close associate” of Zachary Chesser, a 25-year-old Charlottesville, Va., native who converted to Islam and threatened the creators of South Park for depicting Muhammad.
In 2011, Chesser was sentenced to 25 years in prison for attempting to provide material support to Al-Shabaab and using the Internet to “incite violence.” He attempted twice to travel to Somalia, intending to join Al-Shabaab. Chesser worked for six months in 2009 at the Islamic Center of Northern Virginia in Fairfax; the head of the center told local media after Chesser’s arrest that the Quranic student left “because he realized we are trying to stay where the middle ground is.”
Ghattas said it’s important that they find Mohamed, the 31st addition to the Most Wanted Terrorists list, “because he has knowledge of the Washington, D.C. area’s infrastructure such as shopping areas, Metro, airports, and government buildings.”
“This makes him an asset to his terrorist associates who might plot attacks on U.S. soil.”
Just a couple of weeks after Mohamed left America in July 2012, Ugandan authorities said they had uncovered a plot being hatched by the “American terrorist,” Mohamed.
Officials there said the threat of Mohamed sneaking into the country was so worrisome that “people should only go to places with security controls in place.”
Mohamed is an older brother of a man using Council on American-Islamic Relations representation to challenge his placement on the no-fly list.
A judge ruled last week that Gulet Mohamed’s challenge, after he was initially blocked from returning from a trip to Yemen, Somalia and Kuwait in 2011, could proceed in court after the Justice Department sought to get the case dismissed.
The CAIR attorney, Gadeir Abbas, confirmed the family connection to the Associated Press and said the family believes the newest Most Wanted Terrorists addition is innocent and probably fled to avoid FBI harassment.
“Al-Shabaab has killed Liban’s uncle and imprisoned his cousins,” said Abbas. “His family believes the allegations have no basis in fact.”
There are seven siblings total in the Mohamed family, which came to the U.S. in 1995.