STATE — The FBI confirmed Thursday, March 11, 2010 that the agency is looking into the case of 26-year-old Sharif Mobley, an alleged al-Qaida member who grew up in New Jersey who was recently arrested in Yemen.
A natural-born United States citizen, Mobley is currently detained in Yemen and accused of trying to shoot his way out of a hospital there on March 7.
His father, Charles Mobley, said he is not a terrorist, though a former friend said the young American Muslim of Somali descent was becoming increasingly radical in his Muslim beliefs before he moved to Yemen to study Arabic.
Michael Brothman, 25, said he graduated with Mobley from Buena Regional High School in 2002 and remembered his high school friend boasting that he had a black belt in karate, being a fan of anime and being competitive in gym class.
U.S. officials say Mobley had been a laborer at six U.S. nuclear power plants in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland before traveling to Yemen.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neil Sheehan said he did not have access to security information or other sensitive matters.
According to both an unnamed U.S. law enforcement official and Mohammed Albasha, a spokesman for the Yemeni Embassy, said there was no known connection between Mobley’s employment at the power plants and the time he spent in Yemen.
Mobley was detained in early March 2010 in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, one of 11 suspected al-Qaeda militants.
Following his arrest, he was transferred to the Republican Hospital and treated for a week, while he befriended the guards assigned to him asking them to teach him Arabic.
Mobley fooled his two guards into unshackling him by asking to join them for prayers, then attempted to escape and shot them, seriously wounding one and killing the other.
One senior official said Mobley’s targeting indicates he is highly trained in the use of firearms and criticized the negligence of the guards.
Mobley’s capture is the latest in a string of Yemeni counterterrorism efforts aimed at disrupting al-Qaida.
Mobley was in contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, the al-Qaeda former imam now based in Yemen who was also in contact with three of the September 11 attacks hijackers, Christmas Day Bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan.
Yemen has also been the point of contact for several other reputed terrorists, including:
- Michael Finton, American convert to Islam, attempted September 2009 bombing of U.S. target with FBI agent he thought was al-Qaeda member.
- Aafia Siddiqui, alleged al-Qaeda member, former U.S. resident, convicted in 2010 of attempting to kill U.S. personnel.
- Bryant Neal Vinas, American convert to Islam, convicted in 2009 of participating in/supporting Al-Qaeda plots in Afghanistan and the U.S.
- Najibullah Zazi, al-Qaeda member, U.S. resident, pleaded guilty in 2010 of planning suicide bombings on New York City subway system.
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