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Thursday, November 7, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Gun suspect's trip to London mosque cited

Seattle Times staff reporter

Abdul-Raheem Al-Arshad Ali, a former Seattle mosque leader arrested this week on federal firearms charges, was a guest at the London mosque of radical Islamic cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, according to a 1999 story in a London-based Muslim publication.

He was also no stranger to weapons. In 1997, Seattle police investigating an accidental shooting found two handguns, a shotgun, an assault rifle and five swords at his Seattle home.

Ali, 31, was arrested Tuesday on charges that he purchased a semiautomatic handgun in September 1999 for Semi Osman, a Tacoma man who allegedly had ties to al-Qaida.

Ali, known as Andre Anderson before his conversion to Islam, is the third person associated with the now-defunct Dar-us-Salaam Mosque in Seattle's Central Area to be indicted in recent months. The other two, Osman and James Ujaama, have been accused of trying to set up a terrorist-training camp in Oregon. A major focus of the federal prosecutors' case against Ujaama has been his ties to Abu Hamza, leader of a London mosque considered by federal authorities to be a hub of terrorist activity and a recruiting ground for al-Qaida.

Ali apparently visited the mosque at the invitation of Abu Hamza, according to "Al-Sharq al-Awsat," an Arabic-language publication that published an interview with Ali in August 1999.

Ali, a former Marine and Gulf War veteran, told the London publication that he had converted to Islam while serving as a communications specialist in Saudi Arabia. He said he found equality, calm and peace in the religion.

In the military he learned "to be strong and stubborn and to swallow my Muslim enemies," he was quoted. "But here I am now, one of them, wearing their clothes, believing in their religion and eating their halal food."

The article described Ali as the imam of the Yasin Mosque in Seattle, a precursor to the Dar-us-Salaam Mosque.

According to charging documents, Ali told the gun dealer at Federal Way Discount Guns that the weapon he bought was for him, not for Osman, who is not a U.S. citizen and is barred from possessing firearms.

Police found the weapon with the serial number obliterated during a search of Osman's Tacoma apartment in May. An analysis by a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms laboratory in Walnut Creek, Calif., recovered the serial number and traced it to the dealer, whose records identified Ali as the purchaser, the complaint says.

Ali faces up to five years in prison if convicted. He was released on a bond. His next hearing is Nov. 22.

Osman was charged this year with illegal weapons possession and an immigration violation "committed to facilitate an act of international terrorism."

He pleaded guilty to the weapons charge in August and has been cooperating with authorities. According to charging documents, Osman told FBI agents that Ali offered to buy the gun for him because Osman was not a U.S. citizen. Osman gave him $300 to complete the transaction, the complaint said.

Attempts to reach Ali were unsuccessful yesterday.

A father of three children, Ali nearly lost a son in 1997 when the 5-year-old boy found a handgun under a pillow and the weapon discharged, wounding the boy. Police investigators found the cache of weapons but no charges were filed.

Ray Rivera: 206-464-2926 or rayrivera@seattletimes.com.

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