Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Bird’s-Eye View of Jamaat ul-Fuqra

Last month I reported on the investigation of Jamaat ul-Fuqra as carried out by the Christian Action Network. At the time I met with Martin Mawyer and his associates, the group had just completed a flyover of the Red House compound in a private aircraft. Now Martin has very kindly made the resulting aerial photographs available to Gates of Vienna.

For readers who are unfamiliar with Jamaat ul-Fuqra, a quick synopsis: It was founded in 1980 in New York by a Pakistani Sufi named Sheikh Mubarik Ali Hasmi Shah Gilani, along with a front organization called “The Muslims of America”. Most of its members are American citizens, converted to Islam and recruited via the prison system. The group has been associated with assassinations and firebombings in this country and Canada, and various members have been charged with and convicted of criminal offenses. It is thought that the group obtains its funds through welfare fraud, money laundering, and other illegal activities. JF has established numerous compounds, known as “Jamaats”, mostly in remote rural areas in the U.S.A. and Canada. Jamaat ul-Fuqra has been named as a terrorist organization by the State Department.

For more information on this shadowy group, see the Jamaat ul-Fuqra links on our sidebar, or visit the Politics of CP and look through his exhaustive investigative reports on JF in the archives.

Note: some of the images shown below are thumbnails; click on them to see a larger version of the same image.

Overview of the compoundMartin’s plane circled the compound several times, giving the photographer an opportunity to snap a number of shots. This is an overview of the main part of the property, looking approximately west. Rolling Hill Road (SR 615) is the paved road at the left.

The entranceIn this view of the compound’s entrance you can make out the guardhouse and gate, as described in my first post about Jamaat ul-Fuqra. The Muslims of America sign is also visible in the center left of the photo. A close-up ground shot of the same sign is shown below.

- - - - - - - - - -
The Muslims of America

Sheikh Gilani LaneThe “Sheikh Gilani Lane” street sign can’t be made out from the air, but you can be sure that it’s still there.

Houses at the compoundThese are some of the residences on Sheikh Gilani Lane. You can see that the infrastructure at the compound is far from opulent, but not all that unusual for this part of rural Virginia. Notice the extensive erosion problems on the ungraveled driveways.

The mysterious slabThe feature shown at right appears to be a large concrete or asphalt slab, set in the hillside at the eastern edge of the main compound. You can also see it at the edge of the trees in the overview photo.

The mysterious slabIts function is mysterious. Is it a basketball court? If so, it’s unlike any court I’ve ever seen. There are no backboards visible, and the painted lines don’t conform to the normal basketball patterns.

The mysterious slabNot only that, but the paved area is not completely level. In this detail shot you can see that it has less of a slope than the surrounding hillside, but is still canted. If anyone has any other guesses about what it might be, please leave them in the comments.

People standing aroundAs Martin’s plane circled, people gathered in a field near a trailer to look up. After a few minutes they began moving at a rapid pace in the direction of Sheikh Gilani Lane. I have enhanced the contrast in the detailed view shown below, and the shadows make it clear that the figures were moving quickly.

Exodus of people

Exodus of carsIn another few minutes cars from various parts of the compound started up and began pulling out, as shown clearly in the photo at right. This behavior makes sense if one believes the earlier accounts about the Red House compound that cited it as a safe house harboring fugitives wanted on federal warrants. It was also reputed to be the place where John Allen Muhammad holed up to rest and reload during his Beltway shooting spree.

But who knows? There may be some other reasonable explanation why so many residents of Sheikh Gilani Lane suddenly decided to leave when they saw an airplane circling overhead.

Leaflet dropped over the compoundThere have been reports that some of the lower-ranking people in the Jamaat ul-Fuqra compounds are unaware of the terrorist nature of the organization and its more dangerous activities. With that in mind, the Christian Action Network printed and dropped hundreds of leaflets from the air on Sheikh Gilani Lane. Each one featured an arrow pointing to a photo of the Sheikh, with a label that read, “This man — known TERRORIST, known MURDERER, ANTI-AMERICA — is honored with a road sign in Charlotte County, Virginia.”

Let’s hear it for the Christian Action Network! I’ll keep you posted on their future investigative efforts.


Georgia Kafir said...

To paraphrase a quote from Full Metal Jacket...

Anyone who runs is a Jihadi. Anyone who doesn't run is a well disciplined Jihadi

Eric said...

Thanks for the follow-up, Baron. I've been following your coverage of JF, and as a Virginian myself, I find their presence here disturbing.

Anything new on their possible front organization, White Hawk Security?

Baron Bodissey said...

Eric, I don't do much investigating of White Hawk myself -- they're a little too dangerous, and a little too close to home for me to tackle.

CP has been working on them, but I don't think he has anything really new.

Frank said...

Excellent...lets them know they're always under the microscope. It has the secondary effect of making the US an Islam-unfriendly place...there has to be one last place in the world with the sanity to do it.

Pastorius said...

Great post with great analysis, Baron. Very interesting about the members hightailing it. This really ought to be reported to the authorities. It would be a good idea for the FBI to know about this as well.

Baron Bodissey said...

Pastorius --

I'm not authorized to tell everything I know. Let's just say that Christian Action Network has acted very responsibly in their distribution of these photos.

Baron Bodissey said...

Scott -- sanity seems to be in short supply just about everywhere...

akak said...

Know of a place that may be similar, know some cessna pilots too....hmm

James Higham said...

I suppose my worry is another WACO coming up or Jonestown, though of course this is a very different animal in structure.

Vicktorya said...

"But who knows? There may be some other reasonable explanation why so many residents of Sheikh Gilani Lane suddenly decided to leave when they saw an airplane circling overhead."

This is exactly right, Baron. How are we to presume? Perhaps it was time to pick up the kids from soccer practice. Perfectly reasonable explanation.

MrSpkr said...

Actually, that doesn't look like a basketball court. It looks more like a crudely drawn soccer field to me.

[,GGGL:2006-18,GGGL:en&q=soccer%20field&btnG=Search&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wi ]

ExRat said...

la: "The painted lines are those of a basketball court ..."

You're probably right, but they're so ineptly laid out that they are subject to alternative interpretations. You'd think those guys couldn't get hold of a yardstick, length of rope and a piece of chalk.

MrSpkr said...

Aww crud. I am horrible at html tagging. Sorry about that.

Jeremy Jacobs said...

I agree with James Higham. Who knows what these maniacs are up to?

Baron Bodissey said...

Look, guys, I'm not ruling out basketball or soccer for that thing -- one of them seems the most likely explanation -- but you've got to admit that it's a really inept approximation, to say the least. If they could go to all the trouble of laying the slab, why couldn't they get the lines painted approximately right?

As for soccer -- the penalty area seems to take up the width of the field, and the goal itself is deeper than wide -- weird. Plus, when is soccer ever played on a paved court by choice?

My money's on basketball, with a maladroit draughtsman wielding the paintbrush.

Baron Bodissey said...

Joe --

I beg to differ. I just re-examined the full-res versions of those photos. The "court" is clearly of different material, with eroded and dried clay spread across it. There are a number of tufts of grass poking up through it.

At the north end the earth is raised in a little ridge around the edge. At the south end the "court" seems to be slightly above the ground beyond it.

The striations make it look possible that it is in fact a large tarp folded out on the ground, with the painted lines marked on the tarp. But this seems very unlikely to me. I think it's asphalt.

It's the only paved spot in the compound. Peculiar.

Frank said...

Looks to me like an empty catchbasin for water. I can see erosion on the main "pathway" leading to it, and at least on of the of the other paths leading to it is clearly a streambed. The chalk lines could simply be the depressions in it.

Them's my 2 cents. It ain't a basketball court though. Not one that's been used in the last few years anyway.

Cindi said...

Maybe it's not a slab, maybe it's a roof. It's built into the hillside, you say? Isn't there a road at the lower end, I can't tell from the picture. Could explain why the 'field' marks are off; not too concerned if they're not playing on it, but in it. Don't some of the roads look not just dirt, but dirt-paved; sort of dirt laid over vegetation?

X said...

Funny how the trolls never answer the meat of something like this. Why did so many peope suddenly up and leave when a plane started circling, for instance? Forget that, they say, lets try and start an argument about the lines on what may or may not be a basketball court.

Seems to have worked... ;)

Always On Watch said...

The feature shown at right appears to be a large concrete or asphalt slab, set in the hillside at the eastern edge of the main compound.

At first I thought it might be a helipad. But it's not level.

Perhaps there was once a structure sitting on it--one of those metal shelters which can be moved.

What is the history of that plot of land? A dairy farm, maybe?

Baron Bodissey said...

OK, I’ll lay out everything I can about the “basketball court”. I’ve been studying it for a long time in the full-res versions (wish I had more angles on the spot!), and I can’t come to any definite conclusions. But I’ll list the various observations and hypotheses that have passed through my mind.

First of all, for AOW: when you visit that area, there’s no immediate evidence of an earlier farm on the site. Presumably it’s a piece carved out of a larger tract, and then sold to the MOA.

The “court” has some disadvantages if it is what it is appears to be: it’s inconveniently located, down a hill and away from the residences, at the bottom of a draw which fills with water every time it rains.

Could it have been a pond, later filled in to become the court? It seems unlikely, since there is obviously no permanent water source above it. Maybe it’s an old ice house — that’s a distinct possibility.

It must have been difficult to build, since it is not located near any of the minimal roads in the compound. No sign of where the heavy equipment was brought in and used.

You can see that it was excavated from the surrounding hillside, with erosion collapsing the sides of the hollow later on. Yet the downhill edge is not particularly higher than the ground beyond — hence the excavated dirt was removed somewhere, but it is not obvious where.

Fuqra means “impoverished”, and the rusting trailers and junk cars in the compound underline their poverty. Yet the “impoverished” were able to afford an asphalt machine and excavating equipment to build a basketball court?

If basketball was ever played there, there are no signs of any backboards. Normally, at a defunct basketball court, one would expect the stumps of the poles, or at least the concrete bases with the broken-off remains of the supports. But there’s no sign of any such things.

There is a collection of unidentified objects scattered on or next to the the “court”, including something that looks like a strange bench with poles (not a weight bench; it’s turned the wrong way relative to the poles), and also something which looks like it is made up of triangularly latticed metal rods, lying on its side at the south end of the paved area. These could be junk; yet the area doesn't seem to be a dumping ground (there are plenty of those in other parts of the compound).

If there is something underneath the “court”, it is tightly sealed. No sign of any place where the runoff drains into a deeper cavity.

We know that the Red House compound was busted in 2001 for firearms violations. According to local gossip, the residents patrol the perimeter with AK-47s. Many of the members of the group are convicted felons and can’t own firearms. Yet we know that JF stockpiles weapons.


If the group wanted to be ready for ATF coming in on a search warrant, they’d make their guns hard to find. A below-ground sealed storage bunker, with a solid roof painted to look like a basketball court, would serve that purpose. Basically, it would be like the basement of a house covered with a roof and made flush with the ground.

The problem is the entrance — if there is such a thing, it must be down through the trees to the east, concealed by the overhanging foliage, maybe a narrow crawl-pipe. I can just barely see something in that area in two of the photographs, but it’s very frustrating — can’t make out what it is. Need more high-res from different angles!

Anyway, all of this is the thinnest of speculations. It doesn’t really hold up to any scrutiny.

Occam’s razor still says that thing is a basketball court.

But even Occam’s razor is uneasy about this one — too many loose ends.

Wally Ballou said...

I agree - you need views from more angles. I'll throw the transit in the truck and you and I can mosey by there and take some measurements. We'll wear hard hats.

If the area beyond the trees is lower, it clearly is not a drainage pond (you really want to put those in the low spot, and there is no evidence of a dam).

The line designs don't bother me. They look like what a kid with spray paint would create, not being able to see the overall design, and not thinking to use any tools - they look to be not part of the actual design of the slab, but just incidental.

Asphalt isn't all that expensive - and somebody there might have been working for a roofing company or something. People with shovels can do the grading, if they are willing.

If it were a roof covering a buried facility, why asphalt? Occam doesn't like that. If I wanted to create a covert roof, I would plant grass on it, for Pete's sake - or corn in the summer.

It just looks to me like some half-assed, half-finished project that didn't pan out. Maybe they were trying to build a parade ground, but nobody wanted to drill.

Another guess is that it was the floor of a proposed structure like a pole barn for storage, that never got built.

Baron Bodissey said...


You may have found the explanation -- a slab for a building that was never built, later painted by a geometrically challenged person to be a basketball court, which was then never used.

The stuff may not be asphalt, though -- that's just a guess.

Occam has a hard time with this one -- too many entities, too many places to cut.

The Apostrophe Cop said...

I'd like to know what this property was used for before. That flat rectangular place looks like a parking lot. Maybe one of the larger buildings had been a church, or an auction house or flea market?

Yes, looks like a bench at one end. Now it's a firing range.

Georgia Kafir said...


A firing range is what I had in mind as well. Like Baron suspects, those lines on the 'Basketball Court' are not symmetrical. The only thing that gets me is if they went to all of the trouble to pave this section of land with asphalt, then why didn’t they fix the roads? Furthermore, how did they get the equipment back there to do it? Like the others in this thread, my questions are:

- What was this land used for previously?

- Has anyone conducted title searches on the real estate surrounding this compound?

- Who owns the land across the highway from the entrance of this place? Being from Georgia I understand that trailers and disabled cars are a dime a dozen, but could this area be more of the compound? (I am currently trying to gather more info on these compounds in GA)

Like most of you I find myself obsessed with the slab of pavement. However, I think we need to focus more on why these people fled, and why they continue to use a known terrorist’s name for their street.

Hats off to Baron and the Christian Action Network!

The Apostrophe Cop said...

Georgia -

I suspect the slab was already there when they bought the place. Might've had a roof over it for hay or equipment storage, and the roof has since fallen down.

Pilot's licenses are online. It would take a lot of time, but it would be interesting to do searches and see if any Muslim-sounding helicopter pilots live near there and are affiliated with them. Are flight plans public record?

Somebody needs to drive to the county seat and look up a bunch of property records. Or if somebody has a couple dollars, appears to have tax assessor records for Charlotte County online. Or a third option, they might answer phone inquiries.

Why would they flee, if they were in fact fleeing? Heh. Because they're knowingly hiding bad guys, and they thought the circling plane was aerial recon in advance of a bust.

I googled around and ran into some interesting things. There's a Rainbow Daycare listed at 242 Sheikh Gilani Lane. Also, a letter to the editor in a Va. paper defending the camp was written by their sometime spokesperson, Umar Bowers, who apparently is also a Gates Millenium Scholar. I think they're the same person. I've got this stuff bookmarked but I'm too lazy to get tiny urls for it, sorry.

If there are 10-15,000 members of these places as CAN says, that's an awful lot of people to keep a secret. Makes me wonder if there are two orgs with the same name and location - one is more of a Muslim commune/social club, nonviolent, which doesn't know about the existence of the other ones who are bad guys.

Perhaps it's hard for me to believe that it is possible to recruit that many violent fanatics in the U.S., not to mention all of 'em keeping a secret. I have faith in our way of life westernizing and peacifying people. Maybe that's wishful thinking. I'm not trying to make excuses or make light of the whole thing. It's so very concerning that I guess I hope my worst fears aren't true.

My exp., chances are good if these folks are bad guys that they're breaking all kinds of laws - not only laws related to terrorism. Sanitation laws, zoning laws, tax laws, business license laws. Whatever. There's more than one way to skin a cat, and if they're bad guys there are probably a number of ways to make their lives miserable ;-).

The Apostrophe Cop said...

Addendum -

Do a reverse directory search on Sheikh Gilani Ln. I get a half-dozen results which I'm going to further google.

Captain USpace said...

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
don't kill religious Nazis

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
just Muslims are innocent

Ravens38 said...

Excellent work Baron. CPs work is so good that the Feds should hire him. For those that do not know the FBI does know about Fuqra what they are doing about it is questionable. Most buttering and cozying up to make the FBI conscious of our multifaceted society. Raven

Anonymous said...

Did it ever strike you that these might be good, practicing Muslims who have come to live on this land in order to avoid all of the sins that are committed in the city? I guess it's absurd to think that these might be Muslims who would like to be able to let their children play outside or go to school without hearing all kinds of words they shouldn't be hearing or getting abused or being taught things that go against Islam.

Unknown said...

Even though I do not trust them..that is a old Basketball court.