Men arrested after sting and raid on Albany mosque

2 N.Y.

Authorities say suspects offered to launder money from phony missile sale


ALBANY, N.Y. - Law enforcement authorities raided a mosque here yesterday and arrested two men, after they were set up in an elaborate sting operation in which they are accused of offering to help launder money made from the sale of missiles to be used in an attack, officials said.

"This is not a case where the defendants were discovered plotting terrorist violence," said James B. Comey, the deputy attorney general, at a news conference. "The terrorist plot in this case is one that the government's agent, the cooperating witness, represented to be under way. It was not real."

Comey said one of the men detained, Mohammed Hoosain, 49, the founder of the mosque, asked the witness cooperating with the authorities for help in securing a state driver's permit and then a loan.

"It was at about this time that the sting began," he said at the news conference.

"The cooperating witness brought a shoulder-fired missile to a meeting with Hoosain, and explained that he imports such things and ships them to New York City," Comey said.

He said the witness told Hoosain that the missiles were meant to "shoot down airplanes" but that they could also be used to attack the Pakistani ambassador in New York to "retaliate" for Pakistan's help in the war on terror.

Comey said the court documents charge that "Hoosain agreed to help launder the money." He said the other man who was detained, Yassin Aref, the prayer leader of the mosque, was meant to be a witness and guarantor of the transaction.

"At various times in the winter of last year and through this summer, Hoosain and Aref met with the cooperating witness to receive cash that was represented to come from the missile transaction," Comey said.

They received about $40,000 in cash and returned to the witness $25,000 in checks that "they believed was his money coming from the missile transaction," he said.

The men were arrested on the basis of warrants issued on a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Albany and are being held in custody until a detention hearing early next week.

Comey said there was no real terrorist plot but the sting and arrests were meant to send a "disrupting message" to those who might be plotting.

He said the men believed they were dealing with a "terrorist facilitator."

He declined to comment on reports that the men had links to a militant group, Ansar al-Islam, that has also been tied to al-Qaida.

"The fact is there are terrorists among us who want to engage in acts to attack us again and to take away our freedom," Gov. George E. Pataki said at a separate news conference.

Pataki said he did not believe there was any connection between the arrests and the recently heightened state of alert in New York City.

Hoosain's wife, Mossamat, said her husband is a businessman, not a terrorist. "It's totally wrong and totally false and totally a lie," she said, quoted by the Associated Press.

Hoosain, a father of five, came from Bangladesh in 1985. After years of washing dishes and doing other kitchen work, he bought a pizzeria in 1994, according to a profile published this summer by the Times-Union of Albany.

"I'm proud to be an American," he told the newspaper. "When I was in high school in Bangladesh, I looked at a map of America and I dreamed of coming to this great land."

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