CNN.....On September 10, 2007, almost exactly six years after al Qaeda attacked the United States, Bryant Neal Vinas, a 24-year-old American citizen born in Queens, New York, boarded a flight from the city en route to Lahore, in eastern Pakistan, determined to fight jihad in neighboring Afghanistan.Brought up a Catholic by his Latin American immigrant parents, who divorced when he was young, Vinas tried to join the U.S. Army in 2002 but dropped out after just a few weeks.
In 2004 -- for reasons which are still unclear -- he converted to Islam and started frequenting a mosque in Long Island near where he lived with his father. During the next three years he became radicalized, U.S. officials have stated, in no small part because of his exposure to pro-al Qaeda Web sites.
It is possible that Vinas was also influenced by people he came across in the New York area. A former U.S. government official told CNN that youths influenced by the ideas of the British pro-al Qaeda extremist group Al Muhajiroun were known to have hung out in the vicinity of the mosque at the same time as Vinas. Read how al Qaeda is changing.
The former official told CNN that they were a splinter group of theAl Muhajiroun followers who used to hang out in the New York-Long Island area in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Al Muhajiroun's American members, the former official stated, included Syed Hashmi, a Brooklyn college graduate who traveled to Pakistan in 2003 and now awaits trial on charges of providing material support to the terrorist network. He has pleaded not guilty.
Another who belonged to Al Muhajiroun was Mohammed Junaid Babar, a trainee Queens taxi driver, who met two of the July 7, 2005, London bombers in Pakistan and who in 2004 pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorists in Pakistan. Al Muhajiroun was formally disbanded in October 2004 but still operates, CNN has discovered, under a variety of guises (Islamic Thinkers Society).
Anjem Choudhary, the former deputy leader of Al Muhajiroun, told CNN Monday that New York was one of the organization's main hubs before 2004. He says dozens of followers from the New York area still regularly tune into online sermons put together by the group's founder Omar Bakri Mohammed in Tripoli, Lebanon, where he has been living since being banned from the UK after the 2005 London bombings.
Choudhary stated to CNN that he and Bakri were still loosely affiliated with The Islamic Thinkers Society, a New York based organization, which says the peaceful restoration of the Islamic Caliphate is one of its objectives, More.........................
The most recent incarnation of the group is “Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah,” which like Al-Muhajiroun is headed by Anjem Choudary. Though its core membership never rose above 200 committed members and a few hundred peripheral members, Al-Muhajiroun and its front groups were able to network through Islamic forums to gain further support for their activities.
Bakri intended to expand the sphere of operations of Al-Muhajiroun beyond Britain. Private investigator and self-styled “cyber vigilante” Bill Warner, currently based in Sarasota, Florida, unearthed details about the operations of Al-Muhajiroun in the United States.
Warner helped the BBC journalist Richard Watson to unravel the links of Mohammed Junaid Babar and other American Al-Muhajiroun members with a small mosque in Queens, New York, Masjid al-Fatima.Junaid Babar had been arrested in March 2004 in Queens as he went to a taxi-driving course. He was taken by the FBI to Room 538 of the Embassy Suites Hotel in Manhattan where he remained in negotiations for four days. Faced with a 70-year jail term, Babar agreed to give evidence against his associates.
On June 2, 2004, Babar pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to provide material support, and providing that support, to terrorists. In April 2007, under heavy security, Babar gave evidence at London’s Old Bailey against the Operation Crevice plotters.
In the borough of Queens, as Bill Warner discovered, Babar would attend a small mosque, the Masjid al-Fatima on 37th Avenue, Woodside. At some stage in the mid-1990s, this mosque had been infiltrated by radicals from Hizb ut-Tahrir. The mosque’s imam, Aqeel Khan, spoke of the problems caused by these radicals, who also stole money from the mosque’s funds.
Brother Fahad is Syed Hashmi. This individual was arrested on June 6, 2006 at London’s Heathrow airport, as he tried to board a plane to Pakistan. Hashmi was suspected of helping jihadists in their activities in Afghanistan and Iraq. Hashmi officially belonged to the Islamic Thinkers Society (ITS), which is believed by many to be – like Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah – another front for Al-Muhajiroun.
See communique, obtained by private investigator Bill Warner, from Hizb ut Tahrir which was posted on the Muttaqun website below,
With Co-operation of Masjid Al-Fatimah
57-16 37th Ave.Woodside,Queens. N.Y. (U.S.A)
718-803-XXXX and 917-730-XXXX –Cell Phone
WE INVITE YOU, YOUR FAMILY, AND YOUR FRIENDS TO JOIN US FOR OUR 3 DAY CONFERENCE.
The Role of The Muslim Ummah in America
Friday June 2
From: Maghrib till Midnight
* INTEGRATION Abu Umar (Al-Muhajiroun in United States)
* JIHAD VS. TERRORISM Br. Fahad (Member of Al-Muhajiroun)
* IMAN CALLS FOR ACTION Br. Sajeel Shahid (Member of Al-Muhajiroun U.K. branch)
Saturday June 3
From: Maghrib till Midnight
* WHO ARE THE REAL TERRORISTS? Br. Rawad (Member of Al-Muhajiroun)
* ILLS OF CAPITALISM Br. Sajeel Shahid (Member of Al-Muhajiroun U.K. branch)
Sunday June 4
From: Maghrib till Isha
* MAINTAINING OUR ISLAMIC IDENTITY Br. Nisaar (Member of Al-Muhajiroun)* ISLAMIC STATE: THEORY OR PRACTICALITY? Sajeel Shahid (Member of Al-Muhajiroun U.K. Branch)
ALL ARE WELCOME TO JOIN OUR QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION.
Refreshments will be served!!“O you believe answer the call of Allah(swt) and His Messenger(saw) to that which gives you Life.”(8:24)
“Remember there is NO Life or Dignity without Islam!!!
When informed that I (Adrian Morgan) was writing about Al-Muhajiroun, Bill Warner told me: “Of course I have an opinion on our pal Anjem Choudary and Al Muhajiroun…New York City Cops take so seriously the threat from al-Muhajiroun that the NYPD keeps a Detective on full time in London working with Scotland Yard and MI5 to keep tabs on al-Muhajiroun activates and it is al-Muhajiroun no matter what other name they use.
People who are recruited by al-Muhajiroun are taught by the organization that Israel, the Jews and the West are evil and that it is their Muslim duty to fight them. Al-Muhajiroun recruits heavily on the internet and YouTube, Anjem Choudary has 81 related YouTube videos currently online see here.”