FBI agents hoping to break up an alleged interstate crime ring dealing in arson, fraud and possibly stolen vehicles, ended up in a gunfight at a Detroit-area warehouse, after which a suspect lay dead.
The FBI sought to arrest Luqman Ameen Abdullah, a.k.a. Christopher Thomas, 53, who a criminal complaint said was the imam of a radical fundamentalist Sunni group called Masjid Al-Haqq that seeks to establish a sovereign Islamic state inside the United States.
But Abdullah, who the FBI claimed had been planning for a confrontation with police, did not surrender during the warehouse raid in Dearborn, Mich., and was killed, officials said. An FBI dog also was killed in the exchange of gunfire.
FBI agents in Detroit did not provide additional comment on the circumstances of the shooting because it is under investigation.
Abdullah and 10 others were charged today in a criminal complaint with conspiracy and theft of interstate shipments, mail fraud to obtain the proceeds of arson, illegal possession and sale of firearms, and the altering and tampering with vehicle identification numbers (VIN).
The case was being investigated by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in Detroit, though the men charged today were not charged with terrorism offenses.
The raid followed a series of recent arrests, including those of a man suspected of plotting attacks against New York, to men in Dallas and Springfield, Ill., accused of being homegrown terrorists.
Imad Hamad, director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, told a local Detroit news channel that he was told the arrests in the latest case were not related to the suspects' religion.
"Basically, they assured us that this raid, this initiative, is solely criminal and has nothing to do with Muslims or people of Muslim faith," he said in a report by the television station WJBK. "I cannot enter any judgment basically about this. Simply, I don't know them. I got to learn about what I heard today."
According to the FBI, Abdulluh encouraged members of his mosque to "carry a firearm" and to be prepared for "offensive jihad."
"He regularly preaches anti-government and anti-law enforcement rhetoric," the FBI affidavit in the case alleged. "Abdullah encourages members of the Masjid Al-Haqq, many of whom are convicted felons, to carry a firearm, and information obtained during the course of this investigation indicates that many of Abdullah's followers are usually armed."
But Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told The Associated Press the federal authorities' description of Abdullah's extremist links didn't match what he knew of Abdullah, who he said had a wife and children.
"I knew him to be charitable," Walid told the AP. "He would open up the mosque to homeless people. He used to run a soup kitchen and feed indigent people. ... I knew nothing of him that was related to any nefarious or criminal behavior."
A phone number for the family had been disconnected, the AP reported.
In addition, men gathered near Abdullah's mosque, a small house on Clairmont Street on Detroit's East Side, allegedly attacked a newspaper photographer from The Detroit News who attempted to take pictures there around 6:30 p.m. Police are investigating the incident.