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Leader Of Area Mosque Arrested By U.S. Agents
Seattle, November 16, 2005 (SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER) – The respected leader of a Rainier Valley mosque was arrested Monday on an immigration charge, surprising those who knew his work in Seattle's Somali community.
Federal agents with the Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested Abu Abrahim Sheik Mohamed at Sea- Tac Airport as he got off a domestic flight, federal criminal justice sources said.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Lorie Haley said only that Mohamed, 37, was "in custody on immigration violations" and is being held at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma .
She declined to specify what immigration regulations Mohamed is accused of having violated.
While he is being held only on the immigration violations, the Joint Terrorism Task Force is continuing its investigation, a source said.
Mohamed, a native of Somalia , has led prayers as the imam of Abu-Bakr Mosque for the past five years.
The mosque originally was on Rainier Avenue South but moved earlier this year to a simple building on Martin Luther King Jr. Way South .
"I know the man. I'm shocked to hear that (he was arrested), if he's the one I have in mind," said Hisham Farajallah, president of the Islamic Center of Washington.
Farajallah said Mohamed, whom he saw at the end of the recent Islamic holy month of Ramadan, has a green card and is a legal U.S. resident.
Several Somali immigrants expressed surprise Tuesday after hearing of Mohamed's arrest, saying the imam was well regarded in the community for his counsel on a wide range of family issues.
"He is a leader for all the Somali community, not just for the mosque," Hassan Nur said as he arrived at the mosque for mid afternoon prayer.
Nur and a man named Ali said that Mohamed would solve "99 percent" of the problems brought to him, helping people with questions related to marriage, parenting, addictions and youths.
They said Mohamed even started a summer program at the mosque to keep youths off the street and out of trouble.
"I've never heard of him doing anything wrong," Nur said.
Mohamed is "a wise man in every aspect," said Mohamed Abdi, president of Somali Community Services of Seattle.
Nur said he heard that Mohamed was returning from Dallas when he was arrested. Another man traveling with Mohamed was not detained but was told that the imam was going to be "held for a few hours," Nur said.
Mohamed has been the only imam at the mosque, which started six years ago without a prayer leader.
Though open to Muslims of all national origins, the mosque is used mostly by Somalis.
In November 2004, the Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested 14 people at about a dozen Seattle-area locations, including a business one block from the original location of Abu-Bakr Mosque.
Among those arrested in the November 2004 raids was Karim Abdullah Assalaam, who told an FBI informant that "his whole Muslim crew" is involved in an ongoing bank fraud scheme for personal gain and because "you can't go to war broke," court documents say.
In a tape-recorded conversation about guns, Assalaam told the informant, "I just want to die a Shaheed," which he defined as a martyr "who dies in the cause of Allah."
Assalaam is to be sentenced next month after acceding to a federal plea agreement.
The agreement has been kept secret.