Suspected Jihadi Didn't Stand Out In Neighborhood
Saturday, August 6, 2005
Mahmud Faruq Brent was unremarkable enough to his neighbors, a regular guy whom they knew, if they knew him at all, as a cabdriver in the District.
Brent shared a large house with another man and that man's wife on Gwynn Oak Avenue in northwest Baltimore, said neighbor JR Michael Rockstroh.
"We thought he was a regular worker," said Michael Taylor, another neighbor. "He had a job, he went to work and he came home."
This week, Brent, who was also known as Mahmud Al Mutazzim, was cast by federal authorities in a different role: aspiring jihadi, holy warrior schooled in terror camps in the mountains of Pakistan.
Federal authorities swept through the house in Maryland on Thursday as other agents arrested Brent, a U.S. citizen, at a relative's home near Newark. Charged with conspiring to support a terrorist organization, he appeared later at federal court in Manhattan and was ordered held without bond.
New details of his life emerged yesterday. Brent, 30, is a native of Akron, Ohio, and is believed to have lived in Maryland for about five years, said a law enforcement source, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation remains open.
Brent received a D.C. taxi license in October, according to Kimberly Lewis, an attorney with the D.C. Taxicab Commission. She said that he was also licensed as an ambulance driver, which records indicate was his primary job, Lewis said.
Lewis said he was employed by LifeStar Response Corp., which has a Washington office. Claire Ringham, a spokeswoman for LifeStar Response, an ambulance service in the District, said Brent resigned in November after working there for less than a year.
Officials at Greater Southeast Community Hospital in the District said they were checking into a man named Mahmud Al Mutazzim who works or worked at the hospital. "We're checking to see if that is one and the same individual," said Carolyn Graham, vice president for external affairs at the hospital.
According to a complaint filed in federal court, Brent said during a conversation secretly recorded by the FBI that he had attended a terrorist training camp in Pakistan. Brent also said that he had trained with "the mujaheddin, the fighters" and that the decision to seek training was "one of the better decisions in my life."
Brent's attorney, Donald Yannella, said yesterday that the complaint does not allege plots to commit terrorism.
"There doesn't appear to be more than what's in the complaint, as far as any immediate plans for acts of violence," he said. "It has more to do with the historical fact that he allegedly was at a camp in 2002."
The complaint accuses Brent of supporting Lakshar-e-Taiba, a militant Islamic group that is active in the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir. The United States designated it a foreign terrorist organization in 2001 after the Indian government blamed it for an attack on its parliament, which killed 12.
Patrick Devenny, a national security fellow at the Center for Security Policy, said the group was founded in 1989 and is known to recruit internationally. Still, he said, Brent, an American-born U.S. citizen, would not be "your typical recruit."
Staff writer Mary Beth Sheridan and staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.