- The Washington Times - Friday, October 30, 2009

LANSING, Mich. | The deadly shootout near Detroit involving the FBI and the leader of a radical Sunni Muslim group has fueled already simmering fears of some residents in Standish, Mich., where a proposal to move Guantanamo Bay detainees to an empty maximum security prison is dividing the community.

“Hopefully, this is a wake-up call,” said Dave Hertzberg, supervisor of Lincoln Township, where federal officials have toured the Standish Maximum Correctional Facility as a possible site to hold more than 200 Muslim jihad suspects.

“It’s very scary, and I just hope it opens some eyes up here,” he told The Washington Times on Thursday of the FBI raid Wednesday just two hours away.

Also Thursday, federal officials issued a warning that the shooting death of Ummah leader Luqman Ameen Abdullah may engender retaliatory violence against police there and in the Washington area, though law enforcement officials played the warning down as a routine measure.

“Abdullah’s death and associated arrests may foster resentment, violent rhetoric and threats from Ummah adherents,” said the raw intelligence document from the Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center (WRTAC), which was obtained by The Times. “Because of the group’s anti-law enforcement sentiments, law enforcement officers should be particularly mindful of this change in the threat environment and the possibility for retaliation.”

FBI agents attempted to arrest Abdullah and members of his group on weapons charges when Abdullah pulled a gun, refused orders to drop the weapon and then fatally shot an FBI canine. Abdullah was then killed by FBI fire, according to court documents.

Fears of putting hundreds of Muslim terror suspects in Standish are exacerbated by the area’s being a few hours’ drive from Dearborn, the site of Wednesday’s shooting and of America’s heaviest concentrations of Muslims and Arabs.

Lincoln Township passed a resolution opposing the transfer of prisoners from the detention facility at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Michigan.

The Standish prison is set to close for good Saturday. President Obama has called for closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison by his first anniversary in office and, although some have said that target likely will be missed, others are concerned that state and national officials have been far too quiet on future plans.

Mr. Hertzberg said he has been told that a decision will be coming within two weeks, but that his calls to the Department of Defense and elected officials have not given him specifics on a future deal. He and others in Standish say they fear that a lot is happening behind closed doors because few in power are talking.

“All my senators say it’s out of state hands. It’s on a federal level now,” he said. “I can’t get any information.”

U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, the Democrat whose congressional district includes the Standish area, wrote in a letter to the editor published in the local Arenac County Independent newspaper that “to date there has been no offer made, plan presented or process started” and that local officials should wait to examine any proposal before making up their minds on it.

The Coalition to Stop Gitmo North has been sponsoring information sessions across the state and holding meetings and protests, including one Friday in Standish with Debra Burlingame, the founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America. Her brother, Charles Frank “Chic” Burlingame III, was a pilot of the American Airlines plane that crashed into the Pentagon.

Kelly Kimball, a former Arenac County commissioner who has led opposition efforts in Standish, said she was not surprised to learn of a terrorist group organizing near Detroit.

“This is exactly what we have been told by the experts - that we’ll see an increase in [cell] activity. … It’s just a matter of time,” she said. “This is why we don’t want them here. It’s just too close to the largest Muslim population in the United States. Why would we bring those prisoners here with access to people who would be sympathetic to them and who would hide their terrorist activity? It makes no sense at all.”

Peter Leitner, a national terrorism specialist who heads the Higgins Counterterrorism Research Center, said the FBI shooting near Detroit should serve as a “wake-up call” against moving Guantanamo detainees.

“These FBI raids boldly underscore the grave dangers posed to the citizens of Michigan if the administration decides to transfer the world’s most dangerous terrorists from Guantanamo Bay to the state prison in Standish,” Mr. Leitner said in a statement.

As for the raid’s implications in the D.C. area, the WRTAC obtained by The Times said “Ummah sympathizers or other similar groups may be operating in the National Capital Region. Officers should be alert for possible retaliatory actions as a result of the FBI Detroit raid.”

Supervisory Special Agent Katherine W. Schweit of the FBI’s Washington office declined to comment or even confirm the contents of the document.

But speaking in general terms, she said, “any time an incident occurs elsewhere in the country information is provided to all state, federal and local offices to provide them with the status, and urging them to be cautious regarding similar incidents.”

Assistant Chief Patrick Burke of the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington said he has no information to indicate that Ummah is operating within the region.

He also described the warning as routine, but expressed concern that a document meant solely for law enforcement was released to the media.

Ben Conery contributed to this report.

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