A Dearborn cleric popular among Islamic State extremists helped radicalize one of the terror suspects in the London attacks that killed seven people Saturday, according to reports.
According to the Telegraph, a former friend of one of the three dead suspects claimed one of the attackers had been radicalized while watching Dearborn cleric Ahmad Musa Jibril’s YouTube videos and said he contacted authorities after becoming concerned over his friend’s extremist views.
The friend, who was not identified at the request of police, told the BBC’s Asian Network: “We spoke about a particular attack that happened and like most radicals he had a justification for anything and everything and that day I realized I needed to contact the authorities.”
He added: “He used to listen to a lot of Musa Jibril. I have heard some of this stuff and it’s very radical. I am surprised this stuff is still on YouTube and is easily accessible. I phoned the anti-terror hotline. I spoke to the gentleman. I told him about our conversation and why I think he was radicalized.”
The suspected attacker was not arrested and was allowed to keep his passport. “I did my bit, I know a lot of other people did their bit, but the authorities did not do their bit,” the friend said.
British police arrested a dozen people Sunday in a widening terrorism investigation after attackers using a van and large knives turned a balmy evening of nightlife into a bloodbath and killed seven people in the heart of London. Three of the suspects died in the attacks. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility.
A 2014 report by the London-based International Center of the Study for Radicalization and Political Violence described Jibril, 46, a popular Palestinian-American cleric born in Dearborn and another Western-based cleric, Musa Cerantonio, as “important figures whose political, moral and spiritual messages are considered attractive to a number of foreign fighters” and cited their following on social media.
“Their popularity is also reflected on Twitter, where they are followed by 60 and 23 percent of foreign fighters respectively, and is particularly strong among groups like ISIS, whose members provide a majority of their likes and follows.”
The report added: “None of this should suggest that either individual is a member of ISIS or Jabhat al-Nusrah, nor should it be taken as indicating that they are involved in facilitating the recruitment of foreign fighters.”
In 2005, Ahmad Jibril and his father, Musa Abdallah Jibril, 66, were convicted on 42 counts of an indictment charging them with bank fraud, conspiracy, money laundering and other counts. Ahmad Jibril was sentenced to 5 years and 10 months in prison; his father, to 4 years and 10 months. Federal authorities accused the Jibrils of buying 13 homes and two apartment buildings in Metro Detroit since 1988 and insuring them for far more than they were worth. They were accused of defrauding six local banks of more than $250,000.
The government produced a ‘Supplemental Sentencing Memorandum’ that stated that a family photo album seized during the investigation contained ‘photos of Ahmad as a teenager dressed as a mujahid… (and) photos of very young children holding apparently real firearms, “playing” at holding each other hostage and aiming the weapons at each other’s heads,’ according to the report by International Center of the Study for Radicalization and Political Violence.
The memorandum also revealed that Ahmad Musa Jibril was running a radical Salafi website (AlSalayfoon.com) at the time of his arrest that “contained a library of fanatically anti-American sermons by militant Islamic clerics, in English and in Arabic.”
They also found that he had sent a fax to CNN in 1996 claiming responsibility for the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, warning “[t]here will be a series of bombings that will follow no matter how many lives of ours are taken.”
In March 2015, a federal judge in Detroit ordered Jibril to testify about his finances, days before his supervised probation was set to expire.
During a hearing in U.S. District Court, Chief Judge Gerald Rosen ordered Jibril to testify under oath about the source of his income. Jibril cited his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
During the 2015 court proceedings, Jibril’s attorney Rita Chastang said “there is no evidence he is hiding assets.”
The Saturday assault unfolded over a few terrifying minutes, starting when a rented van veered off the road and barreled into pedestrians on busy London Bridge. Three men then got out of the vehicle with large knives and attacked people at bars and restaurants in nearby Borough Market until they were shot dead by police.
“They went: ‘This is for Allah,’ and they had a woman on the floor. They were stabbing her,” witness Gerard Vowls said.
Florin Morariu, a Romanian chef who works in the Bread Ahead bakery, said he saw people running and some fainting. Then two people approached another person and “began to stick the knife in … and then I froze and I didn’t know what to do.”
He said he managed to get near one attacker and “hit him around the head” with a bread basket.
“There was a car with a loudspeaker saying ‘go, go’ and they (police) threw a grenade. … and then I ran,” he said.
London police said officers killed the attackers within eight minutes of arriving at the scene. Eight officers fired some 50 rounds, said Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, the force’s head of counterterrorism.
Islamic State’s statement Sunday from its Aamaq news agency claimed the group’s “fighters” were responsible, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.