Monday, November 22, 2010
Jamaican Imam Abdullah el-Faisal wants to be next terror big, U.S. fears
Counterterrorism agents in New York and Washington are keeping tabs on a Jamaican imam whose death-spewing sermons in English raise fears he'll radicalize American Muslims.
The NYPD intelligence division, CIA and FBI are concerned Sheikh Abdullah el-Faisal is becoming a new Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni Al Qaeda cleric who went from preaching to plotting.
"El-Faisal is focused on propaganda," one U.S. counterterror official in Washington told the Daily News. "But the last few years, he's dabbled in operational things like recruitment and facilitation."
He also inspired Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad and failed airplane underwear bomber Farouk Abdulmutallab.
"His reach goes far beyond Jamaica," the U.S. official said. "He's trying to expand his network in Africa and Asia."
A law enforcement source said El-Faisal "has a big ego" and hates "playing second fiddle" to perceived rival Awlaki - targeted for death by the U.S. for his links to the Fort Hood shootings and Abdulmutallab.
El-Faisal started out giving fiery sermons in London that were posted online by New York-based extremist website Revolution Muslim, which regards him as an in-house imam.
Then he graduated to promoting terrorism, counterterror officials said.
"Be a suicide bomber and die with dignity, honor and prestige," El-Faisal said in a typical speech.
Known as Imam Al-Jamaikee, he preached to Al Qaeda shoe bomber Richard Reid, 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and 2005 British train bomber Germaine Lindsay before the U.K. jailed him on a terror rap for four years.
Experts see a direct link between the rise of English-speaking radical imams and the increase in homegrown terrorists.
"The number of American wanna-be jihadists has increased since more English speakers landed on the scene," said Mitch Silber, head of the NYPD's intelligence analysis division.
"It's more effective ... than someone ranting in Arabic pointing a finger at Western audiences."
El-Faisal is charismatic like Awlaki, but "willing to say things that would make even Awlaki turn pale," said terror expert Evan Kohlmann.
El-Faisal, who declined interview requests through his "agent," once said an "aim and objective of jihad is to kill [nonbelievers] to lessen the population."
An island insider who knows El-Faisal said he's "becoming very frustrated" that the Islamic Council of Jamaica muzzled him from speaking in mosques since he returned in February. So he's recruiting through sermons posted on YouTube.
The Kenyan government jailed him early this year, and had to pay $500,000 for a charter jet to fly him home because no airline would.
"He's out in the cold," the Jamaican source said.
Younus Abdullah Muhammad, a founder of Revolution Muslim, said he recruited El-Faisal to be a spiritual leader, and said the imam is "a beneficial friend and confidant."
Yosef al-Khattab, 42, the website's other co-founder, said El-Faisal is a lightweight Islamic scholar who attracts lost souls.
"I spoke to him once ... and was far from impressed," said Khattab, who now repudiates the website's violent message.
"I asked [Younus Muhammad], 'Is this really what you believe in?'"