- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2006

MIAMI — Charale Hudson never could get a fix on the strange men exercising at night outside the warehouse they guarded so meticulously.

“One day, they said they were fixing the old place up and opening up a store, but then they’d spend all night standing outside guarding the place, not talking to no one,” said Mr. Hudson, a longtime resident of the northern Miami neighborhood known as Liberty City.

FBI and local law-enforcement authorities in Liberty City last week arrested seven men suspected of conspiring to commit terror acts, including the destruction of the Sears Tower in Chicago and FBI buildings in five cities.

They are suspected of hatching the plot in the shabby orange and cement-colored warehouse they called “the Temple.” Locals said the building was once a store, but the men used its junk-cluttered courtyard to practice martial arts and perform calisthenics.

“They was out there exercising all night sometimes, doing karate and stuff,” said Beverly Smith, 47. “We all thought something strange was going on there, but who knew they was terrorists?”

Courts have not determined whether the men are guilty, but the court of public opinion on the streets of this mostly Haitian neighborhood has convicted them.

Converging at a corner store near the warehouse, Miss Smith, Mr. Hudson and others compare rumors about activities in the infamous Temple, which normally blends in with the other homes and businesses in the neighborhood.

An indictment accuses the seven men of trying to procure weapons and arms from a man they thought was an al Qaeda operative. The man, however, was working with federal authorities.

For many neighborhood residents milling along 15th Avenue in front of the warehouse, that is enough proof of guilt.

Across the avenue facing the warehouse are rows of low-income tenements with garbage-strewn lawns. Old tires and broken bottles litter the parking lot. Several residents peek outside at the television vans and reporters jockeying to get the best shot of the drab, nondescript building.

“We didn’t know they were holding meetings in there to kill nobody,” said Michelle, 38, a housewife who declined to give her last name.

“You should have known,” her husband shouted from inside the house, reminding her that he had told her time and time again that something fishy was going on in that warehouse.

Leaning out her kitchen window, Michelle acknowledged that her husband was right and recounted the times she saw police patrolling the avenue in cars, passing the warehouse while it was being guarded by two men wearing black masks.

“The police were up and down that street all night. Why didn’t they ever say nothing?” she asked.

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