News Tracker: Seas of David news tracker
America was warned yesterday that it faced a new “home-grown terrorist” threat after the FBI arrested seven men accused of conspiring with al-Qaeda and plotting to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago.
The alleged terrorist cell was said to have been based at a warehouse in Liberty City, Miami, where they wore turbans and dressed in black while performing “military-style” training exercises outside.
Although law enforcement chiefs acknowledged that their plans were more “aspirational than operational”, the group, five US citizens and two Haitian immigrants, had been in contact with an FBI agent posing as a member of al-Qaeda.
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FBI chiefs emphasised that the men arrested in Miami did not constitute an immediate threat to the US but had been arrested as a pre-emptive strike to stop them acquiring the means, as well as the will, to commit a terrorist attack. But last night relatives disputed police claims that the group, known as the Seas of David, was dangerous. Some said that it was not even Islamic, saying the men’s beliefs were based on Christianity.
Alberto Gonzales, the US Attorney-General, told a news conference: “They were persons who, for whatever reason, came to view their home country as the enemy.” He said that they were examples of a home-grown phenomenon which, as had already been seen in London and Madrid, “may prove to be as dangerous as groups like al-Qaeda”.
– Source: Plot to topple Sears Tower alerts US to home-grown terror cells, The Times, UK, June 24, 2006
The ringleader of the seven men accused of plotting to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago was a “Moses-like figure” who carried a crooked cane and wore a cape as he sought to recruit followers to a religious cult called the Seas of David.
Narseal Batiste, 32, a martial arts enthusiast, led his oddball group of what he called “soldiers” seeking to wage a “full ground war” against America, according to charges brought last week.
Batiste grew up in Chicago and, as a young man, joined the Guardian Angels, a beret-wearing citizens’ crime prevention group. In 1994 he told his father, a former preacher, that he was “joining the Muslims” but his beliefs bear little relation to orthodox Islam.
A close friend said his teachings came from the Moorish Science Temple of America, an early 20th century religion founded by the Noble Drew Ali, a wandering African-American circus magician who claimed to have been raised by Cherokee Indians and to have learnt “high magic” in Egypt. Ali went on to style himself an “angel” and prophet of Allah.
The Seas of David borrows tenets from Judaism and Christianity as well as Islam and emphasises self-discipline through martial arts.
Batiste was known to hate President George W Bush and the war in Iraq. Neighbours would see his followers practising martial arts but paid little attention to them. “It seemed like a military boot camp,” said one.
– Source: Bizarre cult of Sears Tower plotter, The Times, UK, June 25, 2006
Willie Bey, divine minister of the Moorish Science Temple of America No. 1 at 3810 S. Wabash, said he was surprised when the group was mentioned in connection with the alleged terror plot in Miami.
“I heard these brothers were using our name,” said Bey, who wore a medallion bearing the word “Justice” and a red star and crescent on his neck. “I have no idea who these people are. We are law-abiders, not lawbreakers. This is home. We are not fighting against the U.S.A.”
In the past, others have identified themselves as members of the Moorish Science Temple of America when they did not share the group’s ideals, Bey said.
– Source: Dad: Sears Tower suspect under spell of man, Chicago Sun-Times, USA, June 25, 2006
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First published (or major update) on Sunday, June 25, 2006.
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