Suspected Terrorists Hiding in Plain Sight


June 5, 2003 — -- An ABCNEWS investigation has found at least two suspected terrorists, both known to the FBI, who have been in the United States leading lives as a college instructor and a grocer.

One of the men is Mohammad Salah, 53, who was put on a U.S. list in of what are called "specially designated terrorists" for his alleged role in planning suicide bombings in Israel.

But the FBI never arrested Salah, who had been employed by the city college system of Chicago since February 2002. Federal officials fear Salah, who had been teaching computer programming, had unfettered access to school computers and the Internet.

School officials said that they had no idea that Salah was on the U.S. list of possible terrorists. The list was created in 1995 under an executive order implemented by the Clinton administration to monitor suspected terrorists.

After being informed about Salah's placement on the list, Chicago college officials said they terminated him for failing to disclose his background in his employment application.

Salah, a naturalized U.S. citizen, is accused of funneling money to the militant group Hamas for terrorist attacks. He was arrested in Israel on Jan. 25, 1993, for membership and participation in Hamas. In January 1995, Salah pleaded guilty in an Israeli military court and spent a total of five years in confinement.

FBI Agent Robert Wright, who works in the counterterrorism office in Chicago and who is the lead FBI agent on the case, said he can't believe Salah was allowed to remain free in the United States.

"You're dumbfounded; how could this man be walking the streets?" Wright said.

Wright said he strongly believes that Salah "and a number of others should have been arrested, should have [been] behind bars, should have had their citizenship stripped, should have been evicted from this country."

Salah declined to talk to ABCNEWS.

Grocer Allegedly Tied to Killings in Israel

In a second case, ABCNEWS found a second alleged terrorist living and working in the United States.

Jamil Sarsour, 52, runs a grocery store in Milwaukee but also served jail time in Israel. Federal authorities in Milwaukee have brought money-laundering charges against Sarsour and the case is scheduled to go to trial in the next few months.

Although he is not on the list of "specially designated terrorists," Israeli and U.S. authorities say Sarsour helped to finance a string of suicide bus bombings in Israel, including one that killed two Americans — Sarah Duker and Matt Eisenfeld — who were planning to be married.

"Of course I'm angry. And I'm frightened," said Arline Duker, Sarah's mother.

Duker and Leonard Eisenfeld, Matt's father, say they want to know why the U.S. Justice Department has not moved against Sarsour.

"I don't understand it," said Eisenfeld. "Whenever an American is killed abroad, that's a crime."

Duker said people like Sarsour "should be off the street. … The fact that they're just walking around, what kind of oversight is that? Or what kind of mistake is that?"

Sarsour would not talk to ABCNEWS.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events