Ejected imam linked to Hamas, bin Laden

Served as spokesman for 6 Muslim clerics barred from US Airways flight

One of six Muslim imams pulled from a US Airways flight in Minneapolis last night by federal authorities is affiliated with a Hamas-linked organization and acknowledged a connection to Osama bin Laden in the 1990s.

Omar Shahin, who served as a spokesman for the clerics, is a representative of the Kind Hearts Organization, which had its assets frozen by the U.S. Treasury pending an investigation, notes Islam scholar Robert Spencer on his weblog JihadWatch

A Sept. 28, 2001, story in the Arizona Republic that said Arizona appears to have been the home of an al-Qaida sleeper cell, named Shahin as one of three part-time Arizona residents who "fits the pattern" of the terrorist group.

Shahin, identifed as being with the Tucson Islamic Center, said members of his mosque may have helped bin Laden in the early 1990s when the al-Qaida leader was fighting against the Russians.

The CIA at that time, Shahin said, called bin Laden a "freedom fighter."

"Then they tell us he is involved in terrorist acts, and they stopped supporting him, and we stopped," he said.

In the story, Shahin expressed doubt that Muslims were responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks and said he "didn't trust much of what the FBI has divulged - including the hijackers' identities."

As for Al-Qaida nests in America, Shahin said, "All of these, they make it up."

Witnesses to the imam's explusion last night said some of them made anti-American comments about the war in Iraq before boarding the flight, according to Minneapolis airport spokesman Patrick Hogan.

Also, some of the men asked for seat belt extensions even though a flight attendant thought they didn't need them.

"There were a number of things that gave the flight crew pause," Hogan said.

Shahin claimed three members of the group prayed in the terminal before the six boarded the plane. Last night, however, he said they had prayed on the plane.

The imams boarded the plane individually, Shahin said, except for a blind member who needed assistance. They didn't sit together and "did nothing," he contended.

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