- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 24, 2001

DETROIT This city has been cited in a state police report as a "major financial support center for many Middle East terrorist groups," setting the sizable Arab-American community on edge.

The report, presented to the Michigan Legislature last week, also says that "members of [terrorist] groups commit criminal acts to raise financial resources to support terrorist operations overseas. … [I]t is also conceivable that sleeper cells may be located in [the Southeast] area of the state. Southeast Michigan is known as a lucrative recruiting area and potential support base for [terrorist] groups."

The 22-page report, obtained by The Washington Times, says that 374 "potential threat elements" were located in Michigan, home to the largest Arab population outside the Middle East.

A state police spokesman said yesterday that the document was not intended to be public, but instead was part of an effort to solicit federal money for terrorism-response programs.

But spokesman Mike Prince said, "It is no secret that the largest population of Arab-Americans is in the Detroit area. This was not intended to isolate that segment of the population. And the threat element includes the entire spectrum, from lone gunmen to terrorist groups."

"The [information] being cited is a small portion of a large document," Mr. Prince said, referring to a growing concern in the local Arab community about the notion of local terrorists. "I am concerned that there is also investigative information in there, that report. And I also want to make sure that this is not used to inflame any anti-Arab sentiment."

The report was compiled over two years through data from law enforcement agencies from all 83 counties in the state, as well as several local jurisdictions.

"According to the Detroit Field Office, FBI, most of the 28 [terrorist] groups recently identified by the State Department, some of which are known to target U.S. citizens and U.S. interests, are represented in Michigan," the report states. "Examples include such well-known terrorist organizations as Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Egyptian Brotherhood, Al-Gama'at, Al-Islamiyya, and Osama bin Laden's terrorist organization Al Qaeda."

It also cites information from a Hamas training manual, as well as a statement from a Canadian Security Intelligence Service report.

The veracity of the state police document was assailed by Rep. David E. Bonior, who called it the "character assassination of a community … the kind of thing that went on during the McCarthy era."

The Michigan Democrat, whose district includes many Arab- Americans, told the Macomb County Daily newspaper that he intends to question the FBI about the information.

"We certainly want to stop terrorism," he was quoted yesterday as saying. "But I want to see some hard evidence."

Immigration has been a political hot potato in Michigan in recent years. Last year, Republican Sen. Spencer Abraham narrowly lost a re-election bid after activists criticized his pro-immigration stance.

In one 1999 ad targeted at Mr. Abraham the son of Lebanese immigrants, who was the only Arab-American in the Senate the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) asked, "Why is a U.S. senator trying to make it easer for terrorists like Osama bin Laden to export their war of terror to any city street in America?"

Some Arab-American groups say they have been harassed since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Now, with this kind of thing getting out, it can get worse," said Steve George, an attorney and first-generation American of Palestinian heritage. "I hope [state police] can explain what exactly they are talking about in this report."

The report has caused a "big, loud noise here," said a spokeswoman at the Arab-American and Chaldean Council, a service agency for Middle Eastern immigrants. "They better have something to tell us about the problem this is causing here."

State police officials have promised to meet with Arab-American leaders this week about the report. Democratic state Sen. Gary Peters said officials defend the report as accurate.

"It is a super-sensitive subject in this state," Mr. Peters said. "It is a magnet for attention. I asked the state police if this was substantiated. I was told it was confirmed by the FBI in Detroit."

Dearborn Police Chief Greg Guibord said federal and state officials have not told him of any terrorist activity. "If the state police and the FBI know something, they haven't shared it with me," he said.

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