A N.J. man is in custody in Yemen for allegedly killing a bodyguard and having ties to al-Qaeda, Newsone.com reported.
Sharif Mobley, 26, is suspected of being a member in the same branch of al-Qaeda that attempted to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas day. He is accused of killing a guard in an attempt to escape a hospital on March 10, officials said.
Mobley, a former laborer at several nuclear power plants in the U.S., appears to be yet another example of the current trend of Americans partnering with terrorists. Mobley is a natural-born U.S. citizen who is Black and was classified by Yemeni officials as a Somali-American.
He was one of 11 al-Qaeda suspects who were arrested after a security sweep in Yemen’s capital of San’a this month.
According to Newsone.com, he was taken to the hospital on the weekend of March 6 after complaining that he felt ill. Stealing a gun from a security guard, he engaged in a shootout with one guard, killing him, and wounded another guard.
Yemen law states that killing a guard could lead to execution by a firing squad.
U.S. officials fear that Yemen could potentially be the next terrorist staging area, as lower-level al-Qaeda members have settled in the country. The Pentagon has proposed spending $150 million to help Yemen battle terrorism.
Terrorists often seek to recruit American citizens because they can travel without raising suspicion.
“The U.S. passport is the gold standard,” Fred Burton, a former U.S. counterintelligence agent, told Newsone.com.
Mobley graduated from high school in Buena, N. J. in 2002. He later lived in Philadelphia, Pa. and Newark, Del.
Mobley’s mother, Cynthia Mobley, described her son to WMGM-TV in Atlantic City, N.J as “an excellent person who’s never been in trouble” and “a good Muslim”.
“I can tell you this: He’s no terrorist,” Mobley’s father added.
The Associated Press reported that Abdel-Hadi Shehata, imam of the Islamic Society of Delaware, said he and Mobley once lived in the same apartment complex, and occasionally visited the society’s mosque to pray together. Shehata said Mobley moved to Yemen about two years ago with his wife and daughter.
“I think [he moved] to learn Arabic or something like that…and to learn more about the religion Islam,” Shehata told the AP.
Shehata said Mobley never discussed his political leanings, asking only for advice on basic religious practices including how to pray and cleanse himself.
Umar Hassan-El, assistant imam at the Islamic Society of Delaware’s mosque in Wilmington, Del., said he and Mobley were roommates during their pilgrimage to Mecca in 2004.
According to Hassan-El, the worst offenses Mobley ever committed at the time were to forget to pick up clothes or to interrupt discussions among older Muslims.
“He gave no indication that he would join a group that he’s alleged to be a part of right now,” Hassan-El told the AP.