- The Washington Times - Monday, September 16, 2002

LACKAWANNA, N.Y. (AP) Clutching a shortwave radio tuned to an Arabic music station in Kuwait, Hassan Muhsen talked at length about the lure of immigrant life in the United States before his mood suddenly darkened.
"Thank God we're in America. The system is good and fair, but there is ignorance also," said the 53-year-old retired steelworker. "Since yesterday, I heard it three times: 'Go home.'"
Five men from Lackawanna's Yemeni community were arrested and accused of aiding the terrorists who planned the September 11 attacks. The men all U.S. born were charged Saturday with providing support and resources to foreign terrorist organizations.
Now, the town's Yemeni Americans must contend with suspicion and hostility from some of their non-Yemeni neighbors.
"I had no suspicion before, not even when 9/11 happened," Anne Vertino, 34, said as she sat outside her mother's house across the street from a shuttered grocery store where FBI agents arrested one of the suspects in raids Friday night and early Saturday.
"But knowing what happened and they're your neighbors in a small city, definitely you're going to treat them different and wonder what's going on. It's not the women I worry about or the children; it's the men," she said.
Federal authorities say the five men trained at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden spoke about his anti-American beliefs, before returning home in June 2001 to Lackawanna, a suburb of Buffalo on the shore of Lake Erie. Officials said the five men had no information the terror cell was planning an attack in the United States.
Charged Saturday were Shafal Mosed, 24; Faysal Galab, 26; Sahim Alwan, 29; Yasein Taher, 24; and Yahya Goba, 25. The men all lived within blocks of each other in Lackawanna.
Peter Ahearn, special agent in charge of the FBI's Buffalo field office, said he worries the Yemeni community will be ostracized, but that hate crimes would not be tolerated.
"The role of the FBI is twofold," he said. "One is that we're going to conduct investigations of any terrorists, Muslim or not. That's our job. The other side of the coin, and we dealt with this right after 9/11, is that we investigate civil rights."
About 1,000 Yemenis live in Lackawanna, working mostly in the fading steel industry at a galvanizing plant, a Ford plant or an aluminum producer.
Crouching next to the Lackawanna Islamic Center mosque, a 30-year-old man who identified himself only as Abdullah said the neighborhood has been relatively free of ethnic tension since Yemenis first moved here in 1922.
"We have a good relationship around here blacks, whites and a little Hispanic," he said. "We might not know each other personally, but we know each other by our faces."
The atmosphere has become tense, he said.
"We're going to have stares here and there, maybe a couple of words," he said. "What are you going to do? Are you going to fight, argue with people? You've just got to be patient."
Jim Hardwick, 70, who is black and has lived among the Yemenis for a half-century, said he hasn't changed his view of his neighbors.
"That's five [men] out of thousands," he said. "I don't have any opinion on the ones that I don't know. If I don't know 'em, I don't know 'em. The ones that I know, they would never be involved in what happened.
"You can't talk about anybody as a group," he added. "You have to talk about individuals."


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