Buffalo Muslims Sentenced For Illegally Sending Money to Yemen

By Douglas J. Hagmann, Director

2 December 2006: Three Muslim men from Lackawanna, New York, all with close ties to the infamous “Lackawanna six” terror cell, were sentenced Thursday for their role in operating an illegal, unlicensed money-transmitting company -“ known as a “hawala” in Arabic - that sent $5.5 million from Buffalo to Yemen between 1999 and 2002. Mohamed T. Albanna, 55, his brother Ali Taher Elbaneh, and nephew, Ali Albanna, were arrested in December 2002 following the arrests of six other Muslim men from Lackawanna who admitted to attending an Islamic terrorist training camp in Afghanistan prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America.

Mohamed Albanna is the former vice president of the American Muslim Council of Western New York and is the uncle of Jaber ELBANEH, an Islamic terrorist who has been criminally charged with helping the “Lackawanna Six” members attend a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan. ELBANEH is currently being sought by intelligence and military officials and is believed to be somewhere in the Middle East.

Federal court documents obtained by the Northeast Intelligence Network detailed how Mohamed Albanna arranged the monetary transfers from 1999 through 2002 from his business, Queen City Cigarettes & Candy, to Yemen. Records show that “Lackawanna Six” member Yahya Goba used Albanna’s money transfer business send money to al Qaeda terrorist and recruiter Kamal DERWISH, a/k/a Ahmed HIJAZI, formerly of Lackawanna. DERWISH, was killed along with 5 other Islamic terrorists by a hellfire missile as they rode in a vehicle 100 miles east of the Yemeni capital of Sanaa. Referring to the monetary transfer to DERWISH, federal prosecutors stated that “[Albanna] used false entries in his business records to conceal that transaction, and that concerns us very much.”

Mohamed Albanna was sentenced to five years in prison and compelled to forfeit $100,000. His brother, Ali Taher Elbaneh, 62, was sentenced to six months of home confinement for his role in the business operation and will have to forfeit $10,000. Ali Albanna, 33, was sentenced to four years and eight months for closely assisting his uncle, and he will forfeit $50,000. Several women sitting behind Albanna bowed their heads and began to sob loudly immediately after his sentence was pronounced.

Cries of “Islamophobia,” religious bigotry fill Buffalo air

Not surprisingly, a number of hardcore Albanna supporters who attended the sentencing in Buffalo accused federal officials of targeting Albanna for prosecution because he is a “prominent Arab-American leader,” of course saying nothing about the overwhelming evidence of the prosecution and admissions of guilt by the defendants. Additionally, several Muslim supporters who attended the court proceedings Thursday complained that they were closely inspected and made to show identification for security purposes. They also complained about the presence of bomb-sniffing dogs present in the courthouse lobby.

In addition to prudently protecting those attending the sentencing, the loudest protesters conveniently failed to mention that the increased security was also in response to a reaction to copies of a flier that was circulated in the local Arab-American community, urging as many people as possible to attend the sentencing hearing in a show of solidarity and support of the defendants.

Regarding the extra security precautions to insure the safety of those in attendance, Ellie Dorritie, a socialist and an organizer for the World Workers Party and Albanna supporter stated, “This is disgraceful. No other minority group would be subjected to this or would stand for this. I’ve never seen this happen in this or any other courthouse.”