FBI: 'No indication' suspect in Dearborn mosque fire motivated by politics, ideology

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Dearborn — The FBI announced there was "no indication" a suspect accused of starting a fire at the Al-Huda Islamic Center mosque and firing at Dearborn officers outside was politically or ideologically motivated.

Josh Hauxhurst, special agent for the FBI's Detroit office, told a crowd of more than 150 people gathered inside the Dearborn mosque on Saturday there was no evidence that suspect Ahmed Taqi, who was killed in the attack by police, acted as part of a group either.

"He may be the only person who knows why he set the fire," Hauxhurst told the members of the Al-Huda community, faith leaders from across the region and members of the public and media who gathered Saturday.

"We often see telegraphing of motives in cases. We haven't seen that in this case," Hauxhurst said.

Dearborn mayor Abdullah Hammoud, left, speaks to a large crowd alongside Josh Hauxhurst, assistant special agent in charge, Federal Bureau of investigation, during a forum at the Al-Huda Islamic Center in Dearborn on Saturday, February 19, 2022.

Dearborn Mayor Abdullah H. Hammoud, the FBI and Dearborn city officials set up the community event Saturday morning to provide an update on the ongoing federal and local investigation into the Feb. 12 incident.

"The goal here was to demonstrate that what happened one week ago was an isolated incident ... and we stand wholeheartedly in unity together," Hammoud said.

There have been no threats against places of worship in the city since the incident, Hammoud said.

Taqi is an Iraqi national who worked as a translator, Hammoud said, but he could not say whether he was a Sunni or Shiite or whether he worked for the U.S. Army.

The doors to the Al-Huda Islamic Center in Dearborn on Saturday, February 19, 2022.

Dearborn police Chief Issa Shahin said the suspect fired at officers outside the mosque within three seconds of their arrival which is when they found the mosque on fire at about 1:10 a.m.

Taqi fled on foot and police followed him for 19 minutes and pleading him to drop his weapon, Shahin said. The suspect fired again at officers who returned fire, fatally wounding the suspect.

Hammoud said police officers had already discovered the fire and were on the scene before any 9-1-1 calls came in because the city has regular patrols in neighborhoods

Officials said Taqi has a history of mental illness and several 9-1-1 calls had been made to his family's home in Dearborn and to a resident in Oakland County, some of which resulted in hospitalization, Hammoud said.

Police said how the suspect obtained the gun remains under investigation, and whether it was legally purchased has not been determined. Shahin said he did not have a concealed pistol license.

Members of the community applauded after many of speakers made their comments. Khalil Othman, of Dearborn, still had questions, asking the group to explain its comment on social media that the suspect had a mental illness.

"This guy is 37-years-old and he lives in our community. They said he has mental health issues. So I'm sure there have been reports of this guy throughout his life," Othman said. "I'm really glad the FBI confirmed there is no political or ideological motive but the second part is still up in the air."

There are two investigations in the matter: the arson at the mosque is under investigation by the FBI with support from Dearborn police and the shooting is under investigation by the the Michigan State Police with the Detroit police department.

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit,  attended the community meeting on Saturday, saying the country is not divided, it's disconnected.

"This is a place of peace where we all come together with our families," Tlaib said of the mosque. "It is a place that needs to be sacred, it needs to be protected. To see inner-faith connected and people coming together, it's a beautful thing."