A group of men leave a house on Clairmount in Detroit on Wednesday, the temporary home of the Masjid Al-Haqq mosque after an eviction from a building on Joy Road. (Ricardo Thomas / The Detroit News)
Detroit -- The leader of a Detroit mosque who allegedly espoused violence and separatism was shot and killed Wednesday by the FBI in a gun battle at a Dearborn warehouse.
Luqman Ameen Abdullah, imam of the Masjid Al-Haqq mosque in Detroit, was being arrested on a raft of federal charges including conspiracy, receipt of stolen goods, and firearms offenses.
Charges were also filed against 11 of Abdullah's followers. Eight were in custody Wednesday night awaiting detention hearings today; three remained at large.
A federal complaint filed Wednesday identified Abdullah, 53, also known as Christopher Thomas, as "a highly placed leader of a nationwide radical fundamentalist Sunni group." His black Muslim group calls itself "Ummah," or the brotherhood, and wants to establish a separate state within the United States governed by Sharia law, Interim U.S. Attorney Terrence Berg and Andrew Arena, FBI special agent in charge in Detroit, said in a joint statement.
"He regularly preaches anti-government and anti-law enforcement rhetoric," an FBI agent wrote in an affidavit. "Abdullah and his followers have trained regularly in the use of firearms, and continue to train in martial arts and sword fighting."
The Ummah is headed nationally by Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, formerly known as H. Rap Brown, who is serving a state sentence for the murder of two police officers in Georgia.
Early Wednesday afternoon, FBI agents and local police from the Joint Terrorism Task Force surrounded a warehouse and trucking firm on Miller Road near Michigan Avenue where Abdullah and four of his followers were hiding, said Special Agent Sandra Berchtold, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Detroit.
When agents entered the warehouse, four of the men obeyed orders to surrender but Abdullah opened fire and was shot to death, Berchtold said. An FBI dog also was shot and killed, she said.
Though a 45-page complaint filed in the case alleges Abdullah "calls his followers to an offensive jihad" and preaches that every Muslim should "have a weapon and should not be scared to use their weapon when needed," charges in the case do not include terrorism or national security crimes.
The complaint further alleged that an armed group known as the "Sutra team" protected the mosque.
In January, when members were evicted from a building on Joy Road for nonpayment of property taxes, Detroit police confiscated two firearms, about 40 knives and martial arts weapons from Abdullah's apartment, the complaint alleged.
The mosque then relocated to Clairmount in Detroit, the complaint says.
According to the complaint, Abdullah told an informant that if the FBI came to get him: "I'll just strap a bomb on and blow up everybody." On another occasion, he said: "We've got to take out the U.S. government," the complaint alleges.
David Nu'man of Detroit, who considered himself a friend of Abdullah, said he is skeptical about the allegations.
"It doesn't seem to be of his character," said Nu'man, who had attended the mosque on Joy Road but was not a member.
Ihsan Bagby, the general secretary of the Muslim Alliance of North America, said Abdullah was a member of the Lexington, K.Y.-based group, and his shooting shocked the African American Muslim community nationwide.
"We want to know what happened," said Bagby. "We had no inkling of any kind of criminal activity. This is a complete shock to all of us."
The others charged are:
Salaam, Saboor, Porter, Beard, Ibraheem, Raqib, and Pusha all appeared in U.S. District Court in Detroit late Wednesday afternoon. Bassir is in state custody. Others charged are still at large.
Prior to the gunfight in Dearborn, the FBI executed search warrants at 4467 Tireman and 9278 Genesee in Detroit, officials said.