Mosque Raid Sends Deterrent Message to Terrorists
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 5, 2004 Justice Department officials said today they hope today's raid on a mosque in Albany, N.Y., will serve as a deterrent to terrorists planning attacks against U.S. citizens and targets.
Two men were arrested during the raid on the Masjid As-Salam mosque and charged with agreeing to launder money so an undercover FBI operative could buy a shoulder-fired, rocket-propelled weapon, Deputy U.S. Attorney General James B. Comey told reporters during a news conference in Washington.
Comey said the men arrested Yasin Aref, the mosque's imam, and Mohammad Hoosain, its founder understood that the weapon was to be used against the Pakistani ambassador in New York in retaliation for that country's support for the war on terrorism.
The missile actually was owned by the U.S. government, Comey said, and that there never was any danger of it falling into enemy hands or being used against the Pakistani ambassador or anyone else. "This was our missile, and this was a sting," he said.
Comey dismissed charges that the sting represented entrapment. "There is always an opportunity for the defense to talk about entrapment," he said. "That's what trials are for."
While not offering details, Comey said the operation followed a year-long investigation that fingered Aref and Hoosain as supporters of terrorism. He said the two met numerous times with the undercover operative before their arrest.
Comey said the arrests are unrelated to the heightened alert status in New York City, northern New Jersey and Washington, D.C., announced Aug. 1. Acknowledging that it's "not the case of the century," he called the case against Aref and Hoosain "a good case, a solid case that sends an important message."
The goal of the raid and subsequent arrests, he said, was "to lock up two guys who committed crimes." But Comey said he's hopeful that they also "send a broader, deterrent message" that causes anyone planning a terrorist plot to question if any accomplice they deal with is actually an undercover U.S. agent. "We want the bad guys to worry about us," he said.
Earlier today, New York Gov. George E. Pataki said the raid provides further evidence that "there are terrorists among us who want to engage in attacks against us and take away our freedoms."
He publicly thanked the private citizens whose tips to official hotlines helped lead to the arrests. Protecting the United States "depends on the eyes and ears of all Americans," he said, and he urged the public to continue reporting suspicious activities to authorities.
Pataki said the arrests reflect the strong cooperation among law enforcement and intelligence agencies at the federal, state and local levels.
"People should feel positive about this," he said. "Our government, our administration in Washington and local officials are taking this threat to our freedom very seriously and will continue to be aggressive and proactive against those who wish to do us harm.
"We will continue to be proactive and vigilant," he said. "We have to be. And we won't stop until our freedom is protected."