- The Washington Times - Friday, May 24, 2002

The U.S. Marshals Service yesterday added to its "15 Most Wanted" fugitives list Musa Mahdi, named by authorities as the leader of a violent narcotics ring operating out of the District.
"Only the most dangerous fugitives are placed on our agency's '15 Most Wanted' list," said U.S. Marshal Ben Reyna. "Musa Mahdi earned his place there."
Mr. Reyna said a pending 324-count indictment against Mahdi included charges of murder, assaulting a police officer and heading one of the most violent street gangs in recent D.C. history. He said some of the incidents described by the grand jury involved turf wars between Mahdi's drug operation and rival gangs.
As many as eight killings may have been committed by Mahdi, according to Mr. Reyna, who said the charges against the fugitive detail how his "cocaine- and marijuana-distribution network dominated a Northwest Washington, D.C., neighborhood."
In addition to numerous killings, the gang is suspected in multiple robberies, kidnappings, maimings, firearms possession and public shootouts.
In November, a sweep by a task force of law-enforcement officers from several agencies netted a dozen members of Mahdi's gang, including his brother, Abdur Mahdi. Mr. Reyna said the intricate nature of the case the number of fugitives, informants, victims and suspected crimes required the establishment of that special task force.
Deputy Supervisory U.S. Marshal William Bonk said Mahdi may have relied on a network of supporters from the District to New York to avoid capture, adding that the man suspected of being a drug kingpin "clearly has displayed" his ability to move throughout the Northeast region.
Mr. Bonk also said that would-be witnesses and informants may be unwilling to come forward because of the violent nature of the Mahdi organization.
The November indictment cited one instance in which the Mahdi brothers were reported to have targeted rival drug dealer Russell Battle because he was starting to encroach on crack-cocaine sales in their territory. Mr. Battle and an associate were attacked, and the associate was slain.
Later, according to Mr. Reyna, Mr. Battle was shot and wounded by the Mahdi brothers with a pistol. Additionally, Mahdi was reported to have robbed a group of people for failing to vacate his turf in a timely manner.
Mr. Reyna cautioned that "due to the violent nature of Mahdi's criminal background, he should be considered armed and quite dangerous." Mahdi, 27, is black,, 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighing approximately 140 pounds. He has brown eyes and black hair. He has no known tattoos or significant marks or scars.
The indictment said the Mahdi gang, headed by five brothers, controlled an area near Northwest's 14th Street corridor by killing, maiming and intimidating rivals.
It said that to avoid "detection, investigation and conviction," the gang members killed, planned to kill, attempted to kill and threatened to kill individuals who they suspected were cooperating with law enforcement.
The charges in the indictment include RICO conspiracy, narcotics conspiracy, first-degree murder, assault with intent to murder while armed, armed robbery, first-degree burglary while armed, kidnapping while armed and assaulting a police officer.


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