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Hatred at Home

al-Qaida on Trial in the American Midwest

Andrew Welsh-Huggins

Publication Year: 2011

One day in 2002, three friends— a Somali immigrant, a Pakistan-born U.S. citizen, and a hometown African American—met in a Columbus, Ohio, coffee shop and vented over civilian casualties in the war in Afghanistan. Their conversation triggered an investigation that would become one of the most unusual and far-reaching government probes into terrorism since the 9/11 attacks. Over several years, prosecutors charged each man with unrelated terrorist activities in cases that embodied the Bush administration’s approach to fighting terrorism at home. Government lawyers spoke of catastrophes averted; defense attorneys countered that none of the three had done anything but talk. The stories of these homegrown terrorists illustrate the paradox the government faced after September 11: how to fairly wage a war against alleged enemies living in our midst. 

Hatred at Home is a true crime drama that will spark debate from all political corners about safety, civil liberties, free speech, and the government’s war at home. 

Published by: Ohio University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix

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Author’s Note

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pp. xi

The term “al-Qaida” (or “the base,” in Arabic) came into widespread use in 1998 after the group’s simultaneous attacks on the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. It is alternatively spelled as “al-Qaeda” or “al-Qaida”; the U.S. State Department’s list of designated foreign terrorist operations transliterates it ...

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pp. 1-12

... dark when Nuradin Mahamoud Abdi stepped outside his apartment on the North Side of Columbus, Ohio, around six o’clock on the morning of November 28, 2003. It was Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, one of the busiest days of the Christmas shopping season. Many others who were awake and leaving their ...

Part 1: Morning

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pp. 13-14

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1. Call to Prayer

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pp. 15-31

... on the northwest side of Columbus is a narrow street that travels west off Olentangy River Road, the main thoroughfare skirting the western side of the sprawling Ohio State University campus. The area is the typical American retail mishmash of gas stations, hotels, and fast food joints: here a Damon’s, there a Bob Evans, a bit farther on a Kroger grocery store. ...

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2. The Gymnast

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pp. 19-22

... high school gymnast Paul Laws in mid-swing as he pivots one-handed around the pommel horse at Ohio’s state gymnastics championships in the late winter of 1983. He’s making the move look easy, his left hand gripping one handle of the apparatus as he lifts his body up and around. His right arm is perfectly parallel with his right leg, the fingers of his free hand ...

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3. Split Personality

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pp. 23-25

... land where the borders of India, Pakistan, and China meet, home to about seven million people and the site of two wars and numerous other territorial disputes between India and Pakistan. Its history embodies the postcolonial turmoil that gripped the region and set the stage for many of today’s global conflicts. In the late 1940s, as the partition of India and ...

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4. Increasing Tensions

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pp. 26-27

... for Mohamoud Abdi Nur in the early 1970s. The Somali businessman had been tapped to serve as an attaché in his country’s embassy in Germany, and he had a growing family that eventually included eight children. But Nur’s personal fortunes belied growing problems in Somalia. The Somali Republic had been ...

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5. On the Move

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pp. 28-31

... was immersed in his new life as a Muslim convert. On February 1, he filled out paperwork to change his name to Abdulmalek Kenyatta, taking his middle name as his last name, citing “religious reasons” as his motive. Abdulmalek, a common Muslim name, was appropriate for a convert: it means “servant ...

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6. Hardworking Truck Driver

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pp. 32-35

... an immigrant from Turkey named Mehmet Aydinbelge began taking English classes through Ohio State University’s continuing education program. Once his English improved, he intended to take graduate classes in agricultural engineering. Like many Muslim immigrants temporarily residing in Columbus, he was ...

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7. Little Mujahideen

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pp. 36-39

... be among the more unusual courtship letters written in Columbus in the 1990s. Wooing Frida Khanum Bashir, a British-born Pakistani woman, Abdulmalek Kenyatta wrote to her of his dream of raising “little mujahideen.”1 In 1994, Kenyatta was back home in Columbus after his overseas travels and his official affiliation with al-Qaida, still a largely ...

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8. Diaspora

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pp. 40-41

... arrived in Columbus in 1982, he was one of just a handful of Somali immigrants in the city. Abucar had left his home country in 1971 with a scholarship to study in Florence, Italy, where he earned a doctorate and met his future wife, an American artist. For almost a decade, he remained a ...

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9. Ready at Any Time

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pp. 42-58

... shock of the Kenyan and Tanzanian embassy bombings sank in, the country also found itself occupied with another foreign policy crisis: growing concerns about a new conflict in the Balkans. Mindful of the 1995 disaster at Srebrenica, Bosnia, when Serbian forces overran Dutch peacekeepers and slaughtered ...

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10. Four Hundred Years

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pp. 46-49

... imam who had married Faris and Bowling in 1995, could tell something was seriously wrong when he picked up the phone a couple of years later. Bowling was on the line and wanted him to hear something. In the background, Faris was screaming and ranting. “As if he’s hearing something,” Tarazi recalled. “Something talking to him.”1 ...

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11. Busy Summer

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pp. 50-52

... in the Buffalo suburb of Lackawanna, six Yemeni Americans made preparations for a trip similar to the one Faris had made a year earlier. Two members of the group traveled to an al-Qaida guesthouse in Kandahar, where they viewed videotapes of bin Laden speeches and the bombing of the USS Cole in ...

Part 2: Night

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pp. 53-54

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12. We Need People Who Can Vanish

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pp. 55-57

... it seems days of disaster always dawn brightly. But as anyone alive that day will recall, especially in the eastern United States, September 11, 2001, really did begin as a beautiful morning of blue skies and promise. Temperatures in Columbus were in the low fifties, and there were few if any clouds. The ...

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13. Collateral Damage

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pp. 58-60

... residents of the central Afghanistan village of Kakarak in Uruzgan province were celebrating an upcoming wedding. Dozens attended a party at the home of Mohammed Sherif, brother of a close ally of Afghan president Hamid Karzai. The festivities honored Sherif ’s son, Abdul Malik, who was to be ...

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14. Winning the War on Terror

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pp. 61-62

... debate over whether to go to war in Iraq was at full boil. On October 7, 2002, President Bush came to Cincinnati and the city’s old Union Terminal hall to give a landmark speech laying out the case against Saddam Hussein and in favor of invasion. Ohio and George W. Bush went back a long way. The president’s ...

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15. A Great Chapter

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pp. 63-66

... in touch with the Khan family in Baltimore that fall, even digging into his savings to send $17,500 to Ali Khan to invest in a gas station—a real one, this time. Late that year, Faris took a trip to New York City with two friends with one of two purposes: either as tourists checking out the city—Faris’s story—or as a terrorist ...

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16. I’m Doing This as a Friend

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pp. 67-72

... not have surprised Faris: he was being transferred to the FBI Academy in Quantico in northern Virginia. The plane touched down at the airfield in Manassas about 10:30 a.m. Faris admired the view of nearby Lake Lunga during the short drive that followed. They arrived at the academy, tucked into ...

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17. Material Support

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pp. 73-78

... to emerge from the first few weeks of the U.S. war in Afghanistan was that of John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban. Lindh, who grew up in California, was with a Taliban fighting group that surrendered to Northern Alliance troops in Kunduz in northeast Afghanistan in November 2001. A few ...

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18. Guilty

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pp. 79-81

... for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria has seen its share of big national security cases over the years, starting more than a century ago with the 1866 indictment of Jefferson Davis on a charge of treason. Spies Arthur Walker, Aldrich Ames, and Robert Hanssen are among those who ...

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19. A Secret, Double Life

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pp. 82-89

... graduate student Mehmet Aydinbelge had left in the United States were running out. It had been almost a decade since he arrived in Columbus, and his student status had long since expired. A week after Faris pleaded guilty, an immigration judge ordered Aydinbelge deported to Turkey. Before that happened, ...

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20. Get This Done

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pp. 90-93

... opened its investigation into Abdi, agents began following him and tracking his phone conversations. By November, they had confirmed calls to as many as forty different people the government associated with terrorism suspects. To the agents assigned to Abdi, he seemed to behave like someone with ...

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21. Shopping Mall Plot

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pp. 94-99

... Abdi found himself incarcerated at the Seneca County Jail in Tiffin, Ohio, a city of seventeen thousand about two hours north of Columbus. His then attorney, Doug Weigle, had visited him regularly when he was in the Pickaway County Jail in Circleville, just south of Columbus. On May 28, ...

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22. A Symphony of Unfairness

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pp. 100-103

... eliminates one foundational safeguard of the American justice system: the ability to appeal one’s conviction. The tradeoff is basic. In exchange for acknowledging participation in a crime, and oftentimes fingering others, a defendant receives some benefit from the government, typically a reduction in sentence. He also ...

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23. Life Goes On

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pp. 104-105

... a regular at World’s Gym on the north side of Worthington. He and his wife went there often to use the treadmill. Ellwood, a high school teacher, was working out in the winter of 2005 when recognized a former student, though he couldn’t recall his name right away. The man had set the treadmill ...

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24. Atypical Psychosis

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pp. 106-108

... the presidential campaign had hit full throttle in Ohio. Kerry, Bush, Cheney, and Kerry’s running mate, John Edwards, made multiple stops across the state. On September 8, Kerry traveled to the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, the same place that Bush had made his case for the invasion ...

Part 3: Evening

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pp. 109-110

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25. Radical Role-Playing

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pp. 111-116

... in Ohio or anywhere else in the years after 9/11 meant a periodic walk across eggshells. Each time the government announced a new set of charges against alleged Islamic terrorists in the United States—be it Atlanta, Buffalo, Miami, Portland, or suburban Washington, D.C.—a wave of suspicion followed. Muslims ...

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26. American Soil

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pp. 117-119

... It was June 9, and Bush was back in Ohio. He had come to the highway patrol academy at the state fairgrounds complex on the city’s north side. He was there to talk about a cornerstone of the war on terror, the 2001 Patriot Act, now up for renewal. What better place to campaign for the nation’s premier antiterrorism law than ...

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27. Bureaucratic Sloth

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pp. 120-124

... attorney Mahir Sherif had argued that FBI and federal immigration officers, in essence, had taken a backward approach in charging Nuradin Abdi. First, they arrested the Somali without probable cause. Then they gathered information during three days of questioning. Finally, using what Abdi told them, they obtained an arrest warrant that they served on November ...

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28. Dirty Numbers

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pp. 125-131

... this one was right up there. On Friday, December 15, 2005, the New York Times broke one of the biggest stories of the Bush administration. “Months after the Sept. 11 attacks,” the article began, “President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others ...

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29. Disturbing

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pp. 132-135

... was getting accustomed to unwanted visitors. FBI agents were dropping by to talk to him. They were interviewing family members. They were following him and his wife and coming by the factory to interview people he worked with. They’d searched his apartment the previous year, and in November 2006, they’d searched his parents’ house on North ...

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30. The Ummah Is Angry

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pp. 136-140

... had already shown some sympathy to Nuradin Abdi’s arguments. The judge’s September 2005 ruling, though eventually batted down by the appeals court, was a robust defense of civil liberties and skeptical jab at what Marbley considered government overreaching. So perhaps it came as no surprise when ...

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31. Changing of the Guard

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pp. 141-145

... as Iyman Faris and Maqsood Khan returned from their fateful forty-five-minute visit to the training camp where they met Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, they got in a van and sat down in front of two men in camouflage, their faces covered. The strangers’ accents gave them away as African Americans. ...

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pp. 146-152

... in New York and Colorado, the FBI announced the arrest of three men on charges of lying to federal agents in the course of an ongoing terror investigation. Four days later, an indictment spelled out a chilling allegation: one of the men, Najibullah Zazi, a permanent U.S. resident originally from Afghanistan, had been plotting to detonate homemade bombs in a plot ...


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pp. 153-156


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pp. 157-187


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pp. 187-188


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pp. 189-196

E-ISBN-13: 9780804040464
Print-ISBN-13: 9780804011341

Publication Year: 2011