Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Bombs and Fraud in the Old Dominion

 
Note: This post has been expanded based on comments; scroll to the bottom for the update.

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I like to keep up on local jihad-related news in my area, but there isn’t much. If you discount the Jamaat ul-Fuqra compounds, the mujahideen aren’t very busy in Central Virginia.

However, the Richmond-area media have been airing a peculiar story lately, and it may or may not be jihad-related — I’ll let readers decide for themselves. It hasn’t surfaced yet in the national media, nor does it appear in Google News.

It started when a 24-year-old man named Chetanand Sewraz was arrested last week in Chesterfield (just south of the James River from Richmond) for a domestic assault on his wife. Now, according to an story last night on NBC12 , Mr. Sewraz “faces federal charges of possessing a destructive device or bomb in Florida.”

It’s a very bizarre story, and hard to make sense of.
     County police spent the beginning of last week searching after a belief 24-year-old Sewraz and his then wife, Mariea Gamble, had been stealing computer equipment and making fraudulent returns at a Midlothian Staples store in March 2005.
But, while Chesterfield Police were taking pages worth of evidence out of Sewraz’s home a federal search was also underway at the home by ATF agents.
Federal agents now tell us they were looking at Sewraz in an attempted bombing investigation in the Vero Beach, Florida area. As a result, they say Sewraz now faces charges of possessing a destructive device on December 4, 2005 in Indian River County, Florida.
[…]
ATF agents clarify their investigation came after the discovery of an explosive device in Mariea Gamble’s vehicle that was not detonated.
The ATF is also looking into a vehicle fire in her mother’s vehicle.
In recent weeks, both Sewraz and his now estranged wife have filed assault and other domestic charges against each other in Chesterfield.
So who tried to blow up whom? And why?

Ashley SewrazAnd how did a young man learn how to commit fraud and make bombs, all at such a tender age?

His name is so unusual that it’s relatively easy to track down information on Mr. Sewraz via internet searches. He is from Mauritius, and also goes by the name “Ashley Sewraz.” He graduated in 2001 from John Kennedy College in Mauritius, and obtained a degree in electrical engineering from Yale in 2004.

MauritiusIf you don’t know where Mauritius is (full disclosure: I didn’t either; I looked in the atlas), it’s in the Indian Ocean, just to the east of Madagascar. It was discovered by the Arabs in 975 A.D., and later colonized by the Dutch. It also happens to be the place where the dodo became extinct.

But back to our story… A woman using the nic “AnnK” was concerned enough about the first news stories on Mr. Sewraz to ask for information on the French-language forum “Ile-Maurice”:
     The below man Chetanand Sewraz aka ‘Ashley’ is my employer and orginially from the Island of Mauritius. This man has been misleading me for months if you can provide any information it would be appreciated!!
There follows a rambling response from several posters in a mixture of French and English. Apparently Mr. Sewraz’s story has found its way into the French-language press; one of the contributors quotes an article (with no link or URL) from L'Express on Sunday January 15th (my translation):

According to the first reports, made following an allegation of fraud and kidnapping worsened by acts of marital violence, he was arrested by the Office of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms (ATF). This federal agency is responsible for fighting crime and is interested particularly in any activity being able to be related to terrorism….

He shone in his studies, which opened to him the doors of a prestigious American university. He earned a degree there, then a masters in electric Engineering. He prepared recently to complete his doctoral studies. “He is a studious boy. He spends more time studying than going out. We never had problems with him since his arrival in the United States… I am astonished that he has been able in so little time to adopt behavior which merits an arrest,” testifies another close acquaintance. From a county where the rate of unemployment is high, this Mauritian succeeded in credit card fraud. “He made a good living. He is the owner of a superb house,” confirms one of his close friends who still does not understand how such a quiet young man could be involved with an offense of such gravity.


So what do you make of all this? Does anybody have any other information on Chetanand “Ashley” Sewraz? Is he:

  • A troubled young man who abused his wife with explosives?
  • An Al Qaeda sleeper sent to Yale to learn a useful skill for the Great Islamic Jihad?
  • A common criminal?
Or all of the above? Or none?

You decide.


Update: Consensus of the comments is that Mr. Sewraz is unlikely to be involved in terrorism. Conservative Mutant and dune runner supply information that Mauritius is not known to have any terrorist activity, and that there are more Hindus on the island than Muslims.

Ik confirms something that I had intuited — “Chetanand” seems to be a Hindu-derived name. I was reluctant to point it out, in case I offended Hindus (“That’s not a Hindu name! How could you think such a thing?”), plus I’ve noticed that some names in Pakistan appear very similar to Hindu ones. As for the surname, what seems to be a variant spelling (“Sooraz”) appears in Nepalese names. For a dead end, try “Suraz” — it’s a placename in Poland.

In any case, why “Ashley”? Was he trying to hide his ethnic origins?

And the most intriguing question for me: Why were bombs the weapon of choice in a marital dispute?

We live in interesting times.

16 comments:

Conservative Mutant said...

Al-Qaeda's very unlikely, I think. I found some old Mauritian election results, and it appears that "Sewraz" is a Hindu patronym. Furthermore, the quality of the incendiary devices was not very sophisticated: one of the articles describes them as "a propane container in a garbage can with a piece of fabric acting as a wick" and "a plastic toolbox that had four propane bottles inside with a cloth wick and a fire-starting brick next to it," being set near his estranged wife's parents' home and her workplace respectively.

Mauritius did have a charismatic Salafi politician-evangelist, but they locked him up a few years ago for arranging the murder of a rival's election workers in 1992.

ik said...

I can tell you that the first name Chetanand would sound Hindu (anand=happiness). I do not know about the last name unless it is being spelt very differently from the way we would pronounce it.

dune runner said...

From the CIA fact book on Mauritius:

Religions:
Hindu 48%, Roman Catholic 23.6%, other Christian 8.6%, Muslim 16.6%, other 2.5%, unspecified 0.3%, none 0.4% (2000 census)

From the Mauritius entry on terrorism.com :
Known Terrorist Attacks Concerning Mauritius:
No recorded attacks in Mauritius.
Known Groups Operating in Mauritius:
No groups reported operating in Mauritius.

Known Staging Area for Attacks:
Not recorded

Doesn't look like Mauritius is a hotbed of Islamic fanaticism.

I was actually there in the 70's with the Navy. I loved the island, the most dangerous part I can recall was the taxi ride from Port Louis to Trou aux Biche, I'm still not sure which side of the road they are supposed to drive on there, the cabby seemed to use both sides equally, along with the horn.

In any event, this sounds more like a domestic problem than a terrorist one.

Mussolini said...

Bombs, theft, and fraud? Whether or not the man is Al-Queda, he could very well still be muslim.

For the evidence against him:

DEPORT HIM

Whether or not he's muslim. Whether or not he's Al Queda. Whether or not he's some "innocent" (coughhackcough) hindu.

Pim's Ghost said...

Daniel Pipes always says that it's important to assess your local situation, and in this case, the local situation looks pretty fishy. Keep on it.

greer rants said...

Mauritius?
ABLE DANGER had MAURITANIA as HOT SPOT
WHEN THEY WERE WARNING ABOUT THE DANGER IN ADEN.

HERE IS THE GRAPH FROM LINK:

"The Able Danger team had uncovered evidence of five ‘hot spots’ of Al Qaeda activity: Mauritania ; Malaysia; Hamburg, Germany; Brooklyn, New York; and Aden, Yemen. Captain Phillpott even briefed then-SOCOM head General Peter Schoomaker (now Chief of Staff, U.S. Army) on the findings just two days prior to the attack on the Cole. Phillpott reportedly warned Schoomaker that Able Danger had uncovered information of increased al-Qaeda “activity” in Aden harbor – a warning that was gleaned through a search of bin Laden’s business ties"

ABLE DANGER BLOG LINKED TO
THIS TODAY:

Media is a Plural
January 19, 2006

Able Danger and the USS Cole

Is Kirk Lippold, commander of the ill-fated USS Cole, the latest career military officer to be victimized by the political miasma now surrounding the controversial Able Danger intelligence program?

Lippold was in charge of the Cole on October 12, 2000 when the guided missile destroyer was attacked in the harbor of Aden, Yemen by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist organization. Suicide bombers Ibrahim al-Thawr and Abdullah al-Misawa approached the port side of the Cole in a small craft laden with explosives and blew a 40-by-40-foot gash in the destroyer’s port side. Seventeen sailors were killed and 39 others were wounded in the blast.

The official Navy Judge Advocate General Manual (JAGMAN) investigation of the incident concluded that Lippold “acted reasonably in adjusting his force protection posture based on his assessment of the situation that presented itself” when the Cole arrived in Aden to refuel. The investigation further concluded that “the commanding officer of Cole did not have the specific intelligence, focused training, appropriate equipment or on-scene security support to effectively prevent or deter such a determined, preplanned assault on his ship.”

Although Lippold lacked “the specific intelligence” to prevent the attack on the Cole, his superiors did not.

Analysts associated with the secretive Able Danger program, including Army Reserve Lieutenant Commander Anthony Shaffer and Navy Captain Scott Phillpott, who say they identified Mohamed Atta and three other 9/11 hijackers a year before the Al Qaeda-connected terror attacks on America, also say their team passed on warnings about al Qaeda activity in Aden before the attack on the Cole to high officials at both Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and Central Command (CENTCOM).

Shaffer, Phillpott and others tried unsuccessfully to bring the Able Danger information to the attention of the FBI and later to the 9/11 Commission. But when a frustrated Shaffer eventually went public with the findings, he was placed on administrative leave from his post at the Defense Intelligence Agency, had his security clearance lifted, was repeatedly and falsely vilified as an alcoholic, philandering kleptomaniac by his superiors at the Defense Department, and was effectively muzzled from speaking further either to reporters or to Congress.

The Able Danger team had uncovered evidence of five ‘hot spots’ of Al Qaeda activity: Mauritania ; Malaysia; Hamburg, Germany; Brooklyn, New York; and Aden, Yemen. Captain Phillpott even briefed then-SOCOM head General Peter Schoomaker (now Chief of Staff, U.S. Army) on the findings just two days prior to the attack on the Cole. Phillpott reportedly warned Schoomaker that Able Danger had uncovered information of increased al-Qaeda “activity” in Aden harbor – a warning that was gleaned through a search of bin Laden’s business ties

RTWT:

Click here: Media is a Plural - Rory O'Connor's Blog » Able Danger and the USS Cole
http://www.roryoconnor.org/blog/index.php?p=154

Baron Bodissey said...

Wyn, I hate to tell you this, but Mauritania is a different place. It's a Muslim country on the west coast of Africa, and, yes, it has its share of Islamist terror.

pbz23294 said...

I signed up for a blog account just so I could respond to you. I was offered a job by "Ashley" but I ended up not taking it because I was way too suspicious. He was going to pay me $56K a year to be an 80 hour a week assistant. Glad I didn't take it.

Cameron Marie said...

He said "Ashley" came from his grandmother. She liked the movie "Gone with the wind" where the character "Ashley Wilkes" was named.

Narcissistic Projection said...

Like some other posters, I saw a job offering at Nanocore Systems, based in richmond, va. I looked online, and the only thing I could find was the forums profile on a vegetarian website. It was Ashley/Chetenand, no doubt about it. Same email address, same likeness in the photograph, and it also made a reference to his wife's name, telling her "marieah don't try to change my password!". It gave a VERY in depth look into his personality I think. Rambling at times, waxing philosophical etc. I saved the page cuz I'm a nosy bastard. This was back in November. The page is offline now, he took it offline after I confronted him about it.

Narcissistic Projection said...

Here's the personals profile that Ashley posted on vegeweb.com:

"In case you dont read whole ads, let me start by saying that I am not looking for a relationship right now. I am quite happy being single and dont want to be yet another mindless drone in our society who has to date so that the economy profits(after all, couples eat out more, buy more flowers, etc). Being single is a great way to discover oneself so that when the right person does come along, you are ready for him/her. Sorry had to say this since I have received several date requests. Let's talk first! Ok, now to more personal things:

Though I cherish spending time with myself, my thoughts and ideas, I am very much of a "loner who hates being alone"(ask my dog Beanie about that!). I have found that the company of other living beings make me think better and in more ways than if I were left to only my own thoughts. I also enjoy people for less selfish reasons: I simply enjoy spending my life with people and cherish beings alive.

I believe in having a good time, enjoying other people's company. One might say that this is due to the way humans have evolved to seek companionship. This is exactly what I want first: a good friend, one who can be trusted, where I can be myself. I love the outdoors, hiking, biking. I want to visit South America, Europe and Asia(especially the still wild parts). Though I thrill in taking part in philosophical discussions about life, morals, and of course vegetarianism, I also find pleasure in the simple things in life: watching the sun set, waking up to birds singing, watching a good movie and snuggling.

Graduated from college with a combined degree BS/MS in Systems Science with concentration in Neural Networks and Artificial Intelligence. I am fascinated by the brain. Emotions, ethics, love: all we know comes from the brain and its image, the mind. Read a lot of philosophy: Hume, Locke, Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche. I rarely finish any book but read snippets and then think about them. Right now I am reading Hesse. I am trying to learn German since, as you will note, most of my favorite philosophers are German! I hate reading another person's opinion of this and that author but rather like reading the original work itself.

I have also started discovering Eastern aka Indian/Hinu/Buddhist/Jain philosophy. Another thing I have to thank Schopenhauer for!


My musical genre is very varied. I have never come across a type of music which I dont like at all. But my favotite genres at the end of the day must be classical. To be more speficic, tragic-romatics aka Schubert, Chopin, Beethoven and the older Mozart. Not a big fan of Bach and pure classical though!

I am also a big fan of European Trance, German and French Rap(go Manau!). Celtic music is very cool!

What else? I like doing everything at least once by myself: I did my own plumbing in my house, cut wood, redid the electical. I love using my hands and body to Do things but at the end of the day I am a thinker. I think almost constantly, mostly about the world, big ideas in philosophy and basically about my place here. Why am I alive? I have not found the reason yet and maybe there is none but still I find the concept fascinating.

Anyway, as you would have guessed, I also talk a lot!

Please no liars and cheats. I have been burned by an ex Vegweb member and it's not a hard request really. If you think that you are prone to lying, we will not be a good match. I am not judging you but merely preventing us both from wasting our time."

Baron Bodissey said...

Narcissistic Projection, Cameron Marie, et al --

Thanks for the additional information. I'm reading everything that comes in. If I can make a coherent post out of the results, I'll do an update.

EnglishPatientFraud said...

"(ask my dog Beanie about that!)
He doesn't have a dog named Beanie, for that matter he will not ever get a dog for the dog will want to eat meat and it is
hypercritical. Not equal or fair

Scott said...

Sewraz has now been charged with
manufacturing Ricin!

Great catch Gates of Vienna

Baron Bodissey said...

Scott -- Yes, I was tipped to the article this evening by a reader. I'll be posting on it if I have time. Thanks.

Cameron Marie said...

Ashley was convicted in July in FL for the bombing. He was sentenced to 115 months.

The trial was rather uneventful. Yeah I was there... not fun but funny what his dad ended up doing.