Kentucky Islamic leader charged in murder-for-hire plot

An Islamic leader and two others in Kentucky have been arrested and charged in a murder-for-hire plot.

Islamic Center of Lexington leader Mahmoud Shalash, John Sadiqullah and Abdul Hadi are charged in federal court with use of interstate facilities in commission for murder for hire and conspiracy.

Attorneys for the three men did not respond to emails requesting comment on Sunday.

Police affidavits filed last week in federal court give the following account of events: An informant posing as a hit man first met with Shalash in March at a Lexington motel. Shalash told the informant that a person — referred to as "Victim #1" in court filings — owed him $80,000, and Shalash wanted his money back.

When the informant asked if Shalash wanted Victim #1's legs broken, Shalash at first said 'no' but later agreed. In a subsequent meeting Shalash told the informant, "Do whatever you have to do to get my money back," the affidavits state.

Shalash also introduced the informant to John Sadiqullah, who believed a person — referred to as "Victim #2" in court documents — had cheated him in a business deal. Sadiqullah told the informant, "I want him dead."

At one point the informant suggested that Shalash provide a fatwa, or Islamic legal pronouncement, authorizing the killing, and Shalash and Sadiqullah agreed.

A third man, Abdul Hadi had a separate business dealing with Victim #2. Hadi gave the man $20,000 for a partnership in a trucking venture. The venture failed and Hadi believed Victim #2 owed him the money back.

At one point, Hadi, Sadiqullah and another man found Victim #2 at his business in Lexington, and Sadiqullah called the informant to ask him to come force Victim #2 to give them money.

The Islamic Center of Lexington posted a statement to its website that reads, "Muslims in Lexington are shocked to learn the news about the arrest of Imam Mahmoud Shalash. The situation is unfolding and we do not have enough details at this time. Also, we believe that every American citizen is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law."

The statement added: "We would like to emphasize that Islam is a religion built on peace and tolerance. Murder or hiring for murder is regarded in the Quran as a grave sin."

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Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader, http://www.kentucky.com

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