Detroit terror suspect part of broader group, feds say

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit – A Detroit man accused of plotting to use grenades to kill people and wage violent jihad on behalf of the Islamic State is dangerous and backed by a group of like-minded supporters in Maryland, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office made the claim in a court filing while fighting a defense request to free Sebastian Gregerson, aka Abdurrahman Bin Mikaayl, from jail pending trial.

The filing is the first time prosecutors have alleged publicly that Gregerson was part of a broader group of Islamic State supporters. Gregerson, 30, allegedly told an undercover FBI agent that he was amassing a weapons arsenal — including grenades, AK-47s, handguns, rifles, a shotgun and thousands of rounds of ammunition — and wanted to arm like-minded Islamic State supporters in a fight against “infidels.”

“You know because, believe me, if, if the crap hits the fan I'm going to be calling some brothers and tell them to get their butts up here,” Gregerson allegedly told the undercover FBI agent.

The brothers Gregerson referred to were part of a group of like-minded Islamic State supporters in Maryland, Assistant U.S. Attorney Cathleen Corken wrote in the filing Thursday.

According to the filing, one member of the group is a radical former imam in Maryland whose Facebook posts revealed “staunch” support for the Islamic State.

The Detroit News previously revealed that the FBI was investigating Maryland Imam Suleiman Bengharsa, who was identified in search warrant affidavits accidentally unsealed in federal court in September. The Detroit News obtained copies of the affidavits before they could be sealed by a judge.

Bengharsa financed part of Gregerson’s weapons arsenal and FBI counterterrorism investigators believed the Maryland imam and the Detroit man were plotting violent jihad, according to the sealed documents.

Bengharsa has not been charged with a crime during the ongoing investigation. In an earlier, exclusive interview with The News, Bengharsa denied being an Islamic State supporter.

Social media postings by both men led the FBI to conclude Gregerson and the imam support the Islamic State.

The FBI drew the conclusion after obtaining a search warrant last year for Gregerson’s Facebook account. Gregerson only had eight Facebook friends at the time, including the imam.

“Christians are not believers they are kafirun (infidels) and will enter hellfire,” Gregerson wrote in an August 2014 post on Facebook.

In February 2015, Gregerson allegedly wrote on Facebook: “Ignorant kuffar (infidels) will target those who cannot defend themselves. If they see strength they will run like the cowards they are...”

Gregerson also was interested in Ahmad Jibril, a Dearborn cleric cited as an inspirational leader for Syrian militants, according to court records.

After reviewing Facebook posts, the FBI also concluded Bengharsa was “an avid (Islamic State) supporter and disseminator of (Islamic State) propaganda,” an FBI agent wrote in a court filing.

On June 10, 2015, Bengharsa posted video from the Islamic State and a photo of a soldier having his throat cut with a knife, the FBI said.

Days later, Bengharsa posted a link to a story about Egypt’s top prosecutor being killed in an attack.

“Bengharsa commented ‘Allahu Akbar!!’ (meaning, God is great),” the FBI agent wrote in a court filing.

Gregerson grew up near Ann Arbor and converted to Islam after high school. He is married, the father of 4-year-old twins and, until his arrest, worked retail at a Target store.

Gregerson who is being held at a federal prison in Milan, could be released and outfitted with an electronic tether so he can live with his wife and two children in Detroit or with his parents near Ann Arbor, defense attorney David Tholen wrote in a court filing.

Gregerson has been in jail since July 31 after he allegedly bought fragmentation grenades from an undercover FBI agent.

Gregerson is dangerous and should not be released, the federal prosecutor wrote Thursday. The alleged purchase was the first step in a broader plan to expand his arsenal, according to the FBI, which claims Gregerson wanted to buy a Claymore mine.

In June, Gregerson allegedly told an undercover agent he wanted to acquire a large-caliber revolver and use it to kill law enforcement officers.

“That’s one that would surprise the cops, too, that thing,” Gregerson allegedly said during a recorded conversation. “‘Oh you’re wearing a vest?’ Bam! ‘You’ve got plates on?’ Bam! ‘Kevlar helmet? I don’t’ think so!’ Bam!”

Gregerson is charged with several felonies punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison, including receipt of explosive materials with intent to harm.

On Dec. 14, Gregerson was indicted in Virginia and accused of conspiring to illegally purchase firearms through a straw buyer.

The purchase involved a Virginia man labeled by prosecutors as an unindicted co-conspirator.

Prosecutors say the charges undercut Gregerson’s defense that he merely is a gun enthusiast who legally purchased weapons.

(313) 222-2486

Twitter: @robertsnellnews