Special Report: Terrorists Among Us: Albany, NY

“Raise the Jihad sword … Raise the Qu’ran with blood … So we can bring back the freedom for ourselves and the entire people of this Earth.” --Yassin Aref, Albany NY Islamic Spiritual Leader; 3 December 1999

Albany, NY Muslims to Face Terror Trial

10 January 2006: A judge refused Monday to dismiss charges against two Muslims accused of supporting terrorism, saying there was enough evidence to go forward despite defense arguments that the men were entrapped.

Yassin Aref, imam at the Masjid as-Salam mosque in Albany, and Mohammed Hossain, a co-founder of the mosque, were arrested in August 2004, accused of laundering money for an FBI informant posing as an arms dealer.

U.S. District Judge Thomas McAvoy said there was sufficient evidence for a trial. He also refused to grant separate trials for the men, who have pleaded not guilty.

Aref, 35, a native of northern Iraq’s Kurdish area, immigrated to the United States with his family in 1999. Hossain, 50, a native of Bangladesh who owns an Albany pizzeria, is a naturalized U.S. citizen.-

Prosecutors maintained that they were willing participants in criminal activity, while the defense argued Monday that the men were entrapped.-

The FBI informant allegedly told the men that some $50,000 they held for him was from the sale of a missile that would be used to kill a Pakistani diplomat in New York City. The men say they never believed the business deal was part of a terrorist plot.-

If convicted of all charges, Aref faces up to 470 years in prison and $7.25 million in fines while Hossain faces 450 years in prison and $6.75 million in fines. Aref remains in jail awaiting trial. Hossain is free on bail and declined to comment leaving court.

They are accused of attempting to provide support to Jaish-e-Mohammed, a Pakistan-based group listed by the federal government as a terrorist organization.

Aref is charged with lying to federal officials by failing to disclose his former membership in the nationalist Islamic Movement in Kurdistan. The government also alleges that Aref knew Mullah Krekar, the founder of Ansar al-Islam, which U.S. authorities say is a terrorist group that has ties to al-Qaida and has been responsible for attacks on American forces in the Middle East.

Albany, NY Terrorism Case Gains Momentum

1 October 2005: We reported about this matter on 23 May 2005 in the HQ INTEL-ALERT Newsletter, alerting our subscribers that the case involving an Albany, NY imam and a local business owner was larger and far more extensive than was being portrayed, and additional charges were expected to be filed. That was indeed the case this Thursday when ten-(10) additional charges were filed against the alleged terror duo, bringing the total number of charges against both to THIRTY.

Northeast Intelligence Network Director and veteran investigator Douglas Hagmann conducted an on-site investigation in Albany, NY related to the arrests of Yassin Aref, the imam of the Masjid As-Salam mosque and his associate Mohammed Hossain, owner of the Little Italy Pizza shop located across the street from and near the mosque.

Yesterday, Imam Yassin Aref had his bail revoked and was jailed based on “new” evidence. Entered as new evidence against Aref were entries in his personal journals that prosecutors say link him to Mullah Krekar (pictured at left), the founder of Ansar al-Islam, a terrorist group that has ties to al-Qaeda and is responsible for attacks on American forces in the Middle East. According to Assistant U.S. Attorney William Pericak told U.S. Magistrate Judge David Homer, one of the entries stated that [it was time to] “take the war to America and Israel.” “A fair reading of those speeches and journals compel the conclusion that Mr. Aref espouses and has adopted the goals of terrorist organizations and has had an ongoing relationship with terrorist organizations,” Homer said in making his ruling. “It seems the government’s case is extremely enhanced.”

Aref & Hossain were charged this week with attempting to provide support to the terrorist group known as Jaish-e-Mohammed, a Pakistan-based group listed by the federal government as a terrorist organization. Both were initially charged in August 2004 with conspiring to launder money and promoting terrorism, and Aref was also charged with lying to federal officials.

Aref and Hossain were arrested in an FBI sting operation built around a feigned assassination plot to be carried out against a New York City based Pakistani diplomat using a solder fired missle launcher. Aref, 35, and Hossain, 50, had been free on bail for the past year. Hossain remains free on bail at this time.

If convicted of all charges, Aref faces 470 years in prison and $7.25 million in fines while Hossain faces 450 years in prison and $6.75 million in fines, according to federal prosecutors.

Albany, NY Mosque Leaders Await Trial

By Douglas J. Hagmann, Director

Additional criminal charges expected to be filed against against Yassin M. Aref.

FBI has used aerial and satellite surveillance to keep tabs on Aref and members of his family.

5 August 2005: It was a year ago today when federal agents raided the mosque and the homes of two men, Yassin Aref and Mohammed Mosharref Hossain. Yassin Aref, 35, the imam of Masjid As-Salaam mosque, and 50-year-old Mohammed Hossain, a mosque co-founder, were both arrested based on information developed from an investigation that began the previous summer. If convicted, the men face from 17-and-a-half to almost 22 years in prison.

Presently, a year after they were arrested and accused of supporting terrorism, both men remain free on $250,000 bond awaiting trial. Friends and mosque members pledged property for the bonds. A status conference is scheduled next Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Thomas McAvoy, but the case appears unlikely to reach trial before next year. Prosecutors have invoked the federal Classified Information Procedures Act and are still sifting through evidence they want kept secret.

Meanwhile, Yassin Aref, the 35-year-old imam at Masjid As-Salam, continues to lead daily prayers, and the mosque overflows with Muslims on Fridays. Mohammed Hossain, 50, a founder of the mosque, continues to operate his pizza shop across from the mosque and works as landlord of his five buildings.

The men are charged with money laundering and supporting terrorism after a yearlong FBI sting using an undercover informant. Hossain and Aref are accused of laundering money for the FBI informant, a businessman originally from Pakistan who previously had been convicted of document fraud.

According to the indictment, Hossain requested a loan from the informant. The informant, posing as a part-time arms dealer, asked Hossain to hold $50,000 from the sale of a shoulder-fired missile, one he said would be used to kill a Pakistani diplomat in New York City. Hossain was to keep $5,000. A FBI photo showed the informant holding a missile launcher while Hossain watched. Aref was reportedly a witness to the financial transactions, counted the money and wrote receipts. Prosecutors have stated that the FBI informant taped several meetings between the individuals – it was not a single event.

Hossain is a naturalized U.S. citizen from Bangladesh, is married and expecting their sixth child. Aref is a Kurdish refugee from northern Iraq and has been imam at Masjid As-Salam since its founding more than five years ago.