Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Trouble in Toledo

From the Toledo Blade:

In a simple West Toledo ranch house and during target practice at a local shooting range, three area men plotted to build bombs and help assist the insurgent attacks in Iraq, federal authorities alleged yesterday.

The men, including a University of Toledo computer and engineering student, planned to wage “holy war” using skills learned via the Internet, officials said, and they intended to enter Iraq under the guise of doing business related to a Reynolds Road used-car lot that one of them owned.

Two of the men were arrested in Toledo over the weekend and pleaded not guilty during a hearing yesterday. The third was arrested in Jordan and flown back to Cleveland, where he pleaded not guilty yesterday.

All were ordered detained on the charges.

“I think America is safer today,” U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said during a Washington press conference.

According to the government, the men became versed in terror attacks through videos and “jihadist” Web sites and sought to acquire powerful explosives. One of them talked about financing the operation by creating a dummy nonprofit organization, authorities said.

Whether they were close to implementing the alleged plan was unclear. But authorities took it seriously.

“Clearly these folks had the motivation and they demonstrated they had the means,” Mr. Gonzales said.

Mohammad Zaki Amawi, 26, of 4 Chelmsley Ct., Marwan Othman El-Hindi, 42, of 3524 Mayo St., and Wassim I. Mazloum, 24, of 5526 Grey Drive, Sylvania, were charged with conspiring to kill or injure people in the Middle East and with providing the “support and resources” to do so.

There is a sizable Muslim community in Toledo, and there has been for a very long time. Naturally they are worried that these arrests will cause a backlash against them.

There are about 6,000 Muslims in the Toledo community and some have roots going back 100 years, said Dr. S. Zaheer Hasan, a spokesman for the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo. Many area Muslims have served in the U.S. military, he added, and the Muslim community has been vigilantly working with law-enforcement officials to keep an eye out for possible terrorists.

“First, we want justice to prevail and we believe in the justice system of our country,” Dr. Hasan said in an interview with The Blade. “But we are concerned that it is putting Toledo Muslims on the map of the world and there is nothing good about it.”

He emphasized that the three men charged yesterday had no ties to the Perrysburg Township mosque, one of the largest between New York and Chicago.

Ziad Hummos, president of the Masjid Saad, a West Toledo mosque, said the three indicted Toledoans had been seen occasionally at that mosque but were not members or frequent attendees.

“Hopefully, if they’re guilty, they will pay the price. And if they’re innocent, they will not be punished. If I knew they were going to harm this country, I’d be the first one to turn them in,” Mr. Hummos said. “I would not hesitate. This is my country and the country of my children. We want all the people of the United States to be living in peace and harmony.”

During the the times of the “troubles” in Northern Ireland in the 1980’s, several men of Irish heritage were arrested in Boston for gun-running and working with the IRA. They were dealt with fairly in our judicial system, and I don’t recall there being a backlash against citizens of Irish descent in Boston. I’m just pointing that out in case some of us forget that not everyone who comes from one community harbors the same ideas and plots of a few.