One man's path from magazine to suspect charity
Mohammad Mogahed appears to embody the criss-crossing connections between Islamic organizations in Pittsburgh and across the country.
Whether innocently coincidental or evidence of intentional networking, those connections illustrate the difficulty that federal authorities face in trying to untangle the investigative threads.
Mogahed enrolled in graduate architectural studies at Carnegie Mellon University from 1994 to 1996. Neighbors of his old Strachan Avenue apartment, in Pittsburgh's Banksville neighborhood, described him as religious and private – leaving each morning at 5 a.m., then returning and remaining home for most of the day. He and another CMU student formed a company, Digital Art Technologies, whose address was Assirat Al-Mustaqeem's former office on Potomac Avenue in Dormont.
Mogahed also worked for Assirat, rising from managing editor to editor in chief in its final months. Nearly a year after the magazine stopped publishing, he left Pittsburgh to work for Global Relief Foundation. The Chicago-area Islamic charity advertised in the magazine, as did two other charities, Benevolence International and Holy Land Foundation.
FBI agents raided Global Relief's office in December, jailing its chairman and freezing its assets. They contend Global Relief acted as a fund-raising front for Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network – an allegation denied by Global Relief's attorneys and supporters. Benevolence International and Holy Land Foundation also are under federal investigation.
Global Relief's alleged terrorist ties include a connection to Wadih El-Hage, convicted in federal court of raising money for the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa. Two other Assirat writers once shared a Portland, Ore., address with an alleged El-Hage associate who was subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury in that case.
In another Pittsburgh link to Global Relief, the Attawheed Foundation gave $9,090 to the charity in 2000.
Former FBI analyst Matthew Levitt says the Pittsburgh foundation's donation "does not necessarily make them partners in those crimes, although it may. There are a lot of people knowing full well what these organizations were about – that is why they gave money."
Yet many devout Muslims donated to Global Relief, he adds, because it was one of the big Islamic charities in America. "If they were religious people and wanted to give money, this is where they would give it."
After leaving Global Relief, Mogahed used addresses in Kirtland, Ohio, and — in July — in Carnegie. A woman in traditional Muslim dress at the Carnegie house said he does not live there but forwards mail there. She would not identify herself, and attempts to reach Mogahed were unsuccessful.