Official: Militant Pakistani group causes terror concerns in New York
(AP) NEW YORK: A follower of an Islamic militant group caused a previously undisclosed scare in 2004 when someone in his truck took mobile phone photos of the support structures of the Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges, a police official said.
The New York Police Department uncovered the suspected reconnaissance mission in Manhattan while investigators already were on alert that Pakistani immigrants loyal to the radical Sunni group, Sipah-e-Sahaba, were in the city “and possibly up to no good,” said Paul Browne, the NYPD’s top spokesman.
The spokesman detailed the bridge episode in response to a report on Friday in the Daily News that the NYPD was involved in the detention of a member of the group who is purportedly wanted in Pakistan for the assassination of a Shiite leader.
The NYPD has credited one of its intelligence analysts with piecing together evidence that the suspect, Akhtar Hussain Muawia, had used an alias to slip into the United States after the 1997 assassination and was working as a clerk at a grocery store in Jersey City, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from New York.
Muawia, 33, was detained in May and is fighting deportation. His attorney has denied he was involved in the killing or any acts of terrorism.
The NYPD’s involvement in the Muawia case reflects its concerns that U.S. followers of lesser-known radical groups like Sipah-e-Sahaba could pose a threat to the city. The Pakistani government outlawed the group after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in an effort to purge the country of extremism, much of it anti-American.
The group also has been designated a terrorist organization by the State Department.
Investigators from the NYPD’s Intelligence Division first became aware of a Sipah-e-Sahaba presence in the city in the summer of 2003, Browne said. That fall, acting on an unfounded tip about a potential plot against the subways, police and the FBI that fall raided a Brooklyn apartment where they discovered membership applications and other documents related to the group.
In 2004, a truck traveling on the FDR caught the attention of an off-duty police officer by pausing to let someone inside “photograph the supporting structures underneath the Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges,” Browne said. It was later learned that the truck was registered to Tariq Javid, whose name was on a Sipah-e-Sahaba membership list found in the Brooklyn apartment.
Under questioning, Javid first denied knowing anything about the group, then admitted he had signed a membership form, according to court papers. However, he denied knowing anything about photographs of the bridges.
Last year, Javid pleaded guilty to making a false statement and was sentenced to one year probation.
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