Speaking inside a mosque in Dearborn, the FBI Detroit bureau chief revealed that his investigation so far into a mosque fire and police shootings last week showed the suspect was not motivated by politics, ideology or religion.
Detroit FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Josh Hauxhurst addressed worshipers Saturday at the Al-Huda Islamic Association, a Muslim center on Warren Avenue that was burned down a week ago. Authorities have identified the suspect in the fire as Ahmad Taki37, of Dearborn, who police say died a few blocks away in Detroit after a shootout with Dearborn police.
“Taqi may be the only one who knows exactly why he set fire to the mosque here,” Hauxhurst told the crowd. “However, based on the evidence gathered, interviews conducted to date, law enforcement reports, and previous contact with Taqi, there is no indication that Taki was politically or ideologically motivated. at this point let him act as part of a group.”
The FBI is helping the Dearborn police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Detroit office investigate the mosque fire which began after 1 a.m. on February 12.
“It is important to note that in most cases of politically or ideologically motivated violence, we see perpetrators intentionally telegraphing their motives in an effort to promote their beliefs,” Hauxhurst added. “We haven’t seen that.”
After the forum, the Free Press asked Hauxhurst whether his reference to political or ideological motivation also included religious and sectarian motivation. He said yes, which means the FBI’s investigation into the shooting so far reveals that Taqi was also not motivated by religion or sectarian hatred.
The FBI chief added that “only a week has passed since the incident, and the investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information about Taqi (is asked to)…contact the Dearborn Police Department or the FBI”.
Since the shooting, there have been discussions in the Arab-American community about whether Taqi was motivated by bias against certain groups.
The mosque is a predominantly Yemeni-American Sunni congregation and Taqi is an immigrant from Iraq, a city official said. Speakers at the forum, including several Muslim leaders, spoke about bridging the divide between Shiites and Sunnis and between Muslims and other religious groups. A mosque leader pointed out that their mosque is open to all sects and faiths.
The city said the forum was organized by Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud to provide information to the public about the case and promote unity. It attracted a diverse group of religious and political leaders, including U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, several members of the Dearborn City Council, Sunni and Shia imams and a Christian pastor. All addressed the crowd.
Hammoud and others gave additional details about what happened on February 12 and about the suspect, who they said had mental health issues for years. Hammoud said Taqi was an immigrant from Iraq and had previously served as a translator for US forces stationed there.
“We have instructed our police chief and our fire chief to remove all 911 calls related to this individual as far as possible,” Hammoud told the audience. “Over the past three or four years, there have been several mental health-related calls made specifically to Taqi’s residence. Additionally, we have also worked in coordination with Oakland County and received dispatch calls that have We know that Ahmed Taqi suffered from mental health issues and received numerous psychiatry-related 911 calls in the City of Dearborn and outside of the City of Dearborn.
The forum was also an opportunity for people from different backgrounds to come together, Hammoud said.
“Regardless of one’s faith or background…we stand in solidarity with each other,” Hammoud said. “The attack on this mosque was not an attack on a single Sunni congregation, it was an attack that impacted the entire non-Muslim congregation, because this place of worship – as has says (mosque council chairman) Mansoor Mashrah – is not just for Shias and Sunnis and all Muslims, it is also open to non-Muslims I want to make sure we send that message.
It is not known which religious sect Taqi belonged to. Dearborn and FBI officials said they did not have this information. Most Iraqi Americans in Dearborn are Shiites.
In previous years, particularly during the Iraq War, there were tensions between some Iraqi Americans and Yemeni Americans in Dearborn that were heightened after the vandalism of some Iraqi Shia mosques in Metro Detroit in 2006-07. Police said at the time they did not know who was behind the attacks.
After the February 12 fire, Shia and Sunni imams went to the mosque to show their support, including at Saturday’s event.
“The goal here was to demonstrate that what happened…was an isolated incident and that we don’t need to…fragment,” Hammoud said. “We wholeheartedly stand in unity together, Shiites, Sunnis, Christians, Jews, Muslims, non-Muslims, all together.”
Dearborn Police Chief Issa Chahin gave a timeline of what happened on February 12. He noted that police were on the scene before a 911 call was made.
“Around 1:10 a.m., Dearborn police officers discovered a fire here at the Al-Huda Mosque before a 911 call reached the dispatch center,” Shahin said. “Within three seconds of their arrival, they received gunfire from an individual later identified as Ahmed Taqi. For the next 19 minutes, Dearborn police officers followed Mr. Taqi as he walked toward the south on Lonyo Avenue, imploring him to turn himself in and drop his gun.In the Lonyo and Henderson area (in Detroit), Mr. Taqi turned around and pointed the gun at the officers who fired his gun. And those Dearborn officers returned fire, hitting Mr. Taqi.
Shahin praised the response from the Dearborn police and fire department, adding that Taqi’s death was a tragedy.
“I would also like to offer my deepest condolences to the family of the deceased,” he said. “I believe when something like this happens. It’s a failure of society.”
The event was launched by Mashrah, chairman of the board of Al-Huda.
He said his faith teaches “not to hate one another… not to have fanaticism towards one another…. We are all brothers and sisters in humanity, whatever our faith, whatever our origin, whatever our race.”
Mashrah said of his mosque, “It is a Muslim house” which does not favor one particular sect over another and which is open to all religions.
Contact Niraj Warikoo: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @nwarikoo