Federal agents have raided several Muslim-owned convenience stores and a mosque in tiny Henderson, N.C., while arresting at least two Muslim men in connection with the raid.
WND — Authorities suspect the stores were operating a so-called hawala money-transfer network supporting terrorist activities in Yemen, including al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, WND has learned. AQAP’s leaders include fugitive al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who has been linked to 10 major terror plots in the past year alone.
Mohamed Mohamed Nagi, 33, and Abdullah Ahmed Almuwallad, 32, have been charged with food stamp fraud. Additionally, Almuwallad has been charged with transporting stolen cigarettes and possession of the illegal stimulant cathinone, more commonly known a khat. Khat is popular in many countries of the Arabian peninsula and the Horn of Africa, but in Yemen it’s a full-blown national addiction.
FBI agents have had both men under surveillance for several months. Federal, state and local law enforcement agents on Thursday searched four stores in Henderson, located about 40 miles north of Raleigh, N.C., including the stores where Nagi and Almuwallad worked. Agents converged on the targets using a helicopter and unmarked cars.
At least two of the stores – Dabney Pit Stop and Brothers Food Mart – are owned by Abdo Ali Saleh, 39, a Yemeni national who immigrated to the U.S in 1997 on a student visa, federal authorities told WND. Saleh also operates a mosque and madrassa behind another store he owns, Henderson Furniture Outlet Inc., which also has been under surveillance.
Authorities described the small mosque, which serves about three dozen Muslims, as a “place of interest” and Saleh as a “person of interest” in the investigation. Saleh has not been charged with a crime, but sources say charges may be pending.
State records show Saleh, who could not be reached for comment, also owns the Greystone Variety Mart and Raleigh Road Best Bet in Henderson. Authorities say Saleh has at least two relatives in the area – Mohamed Saleh and Najeeb Saleh. He also is related to Saleh Saleh in Dearborn, Mich. Federal records show Saleh has worked as a U.S. flag vessel operator.