Several people who had come to know Ali Ahmed since he came to the United States as a refugee in 2008 struggled to understand the serious allegations leveled against the 42-year-old, the Republic reported. Ahmed, who became a U.S. citizen about two years ago, had embraced an exciting bachelor’s life before recently getting married and having his first child this year, his friends said. He loved animals and planned to build a little farm on property near Phoenix, the Republic reported.
But Ahmed had a darker past that no one in Arizona knew about, federal officials allege. On Friday, the Justice Department announced that federal officials last week arrested Ahmed, whose full name is Ali Yousif Ahmed al-Nouri, for the deaths of two Iraqi police officers and planned to extradite him for murder.
“A Phoenix-area resident, who is alleged to have been the leader of a group of Al-Qaeda terrorists in Al-Fallujah, Iraq, appeared today before a federal magistrate judge,” the Justice Department said in a statement. “He is wanted to stand trial in Iraq for two charges of premeditated murder committed in 2006.”
Although most of the court records in the case are under seal, a complaint filed Wednesday by Michael Bailey, the U.S. attorney for Arizona, summarizes the alleged murders.
On June 1, 2006, six masked men stepped out of two cars carrying guns in front of a store on Street 40 in Fallujah, according to the complaint. A witness watched as one of the men pointed a handgun at Issam Ahmed Hussein, a first lieutenant in the local police force. The masked man pulled the trigger, but the gun jammed. The witness allegedly told police that Ahmed, who was not wearing a mask, pulled out a gun, according to the complaint. Then, Ahmed told the men to leave the police officer alone.
One of the masked men told Ahmed to step back — either telling him “step back and don’t interfere with this matter” or “Ali step back, it is not your business,” according to two translations of the witness statement. Then, another man shot the officer with an AK-47, killing him. Ahmed and the other men allegedly fled the scene, according to the complaint.
About four months later, on Oct. 3, 2006, Ahmed allegedly parked in front of another police officer in Fallujah. Masked men in the vehicle allegedly fatally shot officer Khalid Ibrahim Mohammad. A witness told police that Ahmed, whose mask allegedly fell off, was a local carpenter “known for conducting assassination operations on members of the police force.” The witness told police that Ahmed got out of the car and shot Mohammad. Another witness told police the same story.
After police arrested one of the other men who allegedly gunned down the officers, he told police that Ahmed was the leader of an al-Qaeda group, the complaint said.
An Iraqi judge in a magistrate court issued a warrant for Ahmed’s arrest last May, according to the complaint. Iraqi officials requested that Ahmed be arrested and extradited to face murder charges for the two killings.
Ahmed immigrated to Phoenix in 2008 as a refugee, the Republic reported. His friends believed the man had been shot more than a dozen times by al-Qaeda terrorists in Iraq.
“He said he had 20 bullets in his body,” Jabir Algarawi, a friend of Ahmed, told the newspaper. “He said he had been shot 20 times in the face and arms and legs.”
Algarawi and Ahmed had been friends since 2010, the Republic reported. He said Ahmed told him about being detained last year while flying back from Istanbul and questioned by FBI agents. Algarawi said Ahmed came back to Phoenix a week later but did not mention being accused of having connections to al-Qaeda.
Algarawi, who is a board member of the organization Refugees and Immigrants Community for Empowerment, said the allegation that his friend had connections to a terrorist organization shocked him.
“He’s not religious,” Algarawi told the Republic. “He was always out partying, drinking. He does not seem to me to be a person with an extremist background.”