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Thursday 15 December 2016
The first Muslim member of Congress now vying to be the first Muslim leader of the Democratic Party once met privately with a radical Muslim cleric who’s admitted supporting the late al-Qaida kingpin Osama bin Laden and ministering to two suspected Saudi agents before they went on a hijacking dry run before 9/11, according to the recently declassified intelligence report known as the “28 pages.”
More disturbing, Rep. Keith Ellison defended the Muslim cleric, Omar Shahin, after he was kicked off a US Airways flight from Minneapolis to Phoenix with five other Muslims for frightening crew and passengers by behaving “suspiciously” like the 9/11 hijackers. Shahin was detained and questioned by authorities.
The night before the Nov. 20, 2006, incident, Ellison met with Shahin in Minneapolis following a private conference organized by the imam and the North American Imams Federation he led at the time.
In addition, Ellison met with Sheikh Mahmoud Sulaiman, the imam of the Phoenix mosque attended by the ISIS-tied terrorists Elton “Ebrahim” Simpson and Nadir Soofi, who last year attacked a government building in Garland, Texas.
Two days after Shahin, Sulaiman and the other Islamic clerics were bounced by security, Ellison sent a letter to the US Airways chief executive demanding a meeting to discuss possible “discrimination” against his friends. He also used the incident, which security experts believe was staged to desensitize security personnel to such activity, as a platform to call for the criminalization of profiling suspicious Muslim passengers.
Ellison, D-Minn., has emerged as the leading candidate to helm the Democratic National Committee. His bid got a major boost earlier this month when his chief rival for the spot, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, announced he was getting out of the race. The DNC’s 400-plus members will vote for a new party chair in February.
Shahin, who has acknowledged being a former supporter of Osama bin Laden, is no stranger to controversy.
At his former hardline Saudi-backed mosque in Tucson, Ariz., he ministered to two Saudi college students removed from an America West flight after twice attempting to open the cockpit. The FBI suspected the 1999 incident was a “dry run” for the 9/11 hijackings. One of the students, Hamdan al-Shalawi, had trained for attacks in Afghanistan. The other, Muhammed al-Qudhaeein, became a material witness in the 9/11 investigation.
Al-Qudhaeein and al-Shalawi were flying from Phoenix to Washington to attend a party at the Saudi Embassy.
“After they boarded the plane in Phoenix, they began asking the flight attendants technical questions about the flight that the flight attendants found suspicious,” according to the recently released “28 pages.” “When the plane was in flight, al-Qudhaeein asked where the bathroom was; one of the flight attendants pointed him to the back of the plane. Nevertheless, al-Qudhaeein went to the front of the plane and attempted on two occasions to enter the cockpit.”
The plane made an emergency landing and the FBI investigated the incident, but decided not to pursue prosecution. At the time, al-Qudhaeein and al-Shalawi claimed that the Saudi Embassy paid for their airplane tickets.
After the FBI discovered that the suspect in a counterterrorism investigation in Phoenix was driving al-Shalawi’s car, the bureau opened a counterterrorism case on al-Shalawi.
Then, in November 2000, the FBI received reporting that al-Shalawi had trained at terrorist camps in Afghanistan and had received explosives training to perform attacks on American targets.
After the 9/11 attacks, the bureau’s Phoenix field office fired off a memo to headquarters warning: “Phoenix FBI now believes both men were specifically attempting to test the security procedures of America West Airlines in preparation for and in furtherance of UBL/Al-Qaida operations.”
The office subsequently believed that al-Qudhaeein might be a Saudi intelligence agent, based on his frequent contact with Saudi government establishments in the US and his operation of a “Saudi club” in Phoenix to assist Saudi students in the area, among other things. The FBI has also developed information that al-Qudhaeein was receiving money from the Saudi government.
In spite of being subjects of an FBI counterterrorism investigation, al-Qudhaeein and al-Shalawi filed racial-profiling suits against America West, now part of US Airways. Defending them was none other than Shahin, along with the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations — Nihad Awad, another close friend of Ellison, aka Hakim Muhammad.
FBI investigators believe bin Laden operated a cell at Shahin’s mosque. Hani Hanjour, the hijacker who piloted the plane that hit the Pentagon, worshipped there along with bin Laden’s one-time personal secretary. Bin Laden’s former chief of logistics, in fact, was president of the mosque just before Shahin took over.
Ellison’s association with Shahin is just one of several troubling connections to terror-supporting Islamists. Appearing at a 2010 private fundraiser hosted by pro-jihad Muslim activist Esam Omeish, for example, Ellison was recorded by the Investigative Project on Terrorism making disparaging remarks about Israel.
Ellison’s office did not respond to requests for comment.