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Current Page: U.S. | Wednesday, October 05, 2016
Maryland Imam Tests Limits of Free Speech by Praising ISIS Beheadings

Maryland Imam Tests Limits of Free Speech by Praising ISIS Beheadings

A sign welcomes U.S. President Barack Obama to the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque in Catonsville, Maryland, February 3, 2016. | (Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

A Muslim cleric in Maryland, who has openly endorsed the Islamic State terror group and funded at least one Muslim convert who was arrested for buying illegal explosives, has not been charged or arrested because, according to authorities, he hasn't broken any laws.

Suleiman Anwar Bengharsa, an imam at mosques in Annapolis and outside Baltimore who also serves as a prison chaplain, has posted gruesome videos showing Islamic State fighters, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh, beheading and burning alive their enemies and praised terrorist attacks overseas, The New York Times reports.

The FBI filed an affidavit in federal court saying that the 59-year-old imam gave $1,300 to a 29-year-old Muslim covert, identified as Sebastian Gregerson, in Detroit in June 2015, and the man used it to buy firearms and grenades.

Gregerson, who calls himself Abdurrahaman Bin Mikaayl, was arrested in July and indicted on explosives charges, the Times adds.

FBI agents suspect the two men were plotting terrorism, according to a court filing. "Based on the totality of the aforementioned information and evidence, there is reason to believe that Bengharsa and Gregerson are engaged in discussions and preparations for some violent act on behalf of" the Islamic State, an agent wrote.

Bengharsa received $902,710 in wire transfers in 2014 and 2015, according to court records. The documents also show he sent money three times to an unnamed person in Yemen, the Times says.

Last month, bombs exploded in New York City and New Jersey and a stabbing incident took place at a Minnesota mall.

The Manhattan explosion took place on the night of Sept. 17 on West 23rd Street, near Sixth Avenue in the Chelsea neighborhood, injuring 29 people, shaking buildings and shattering windows.

Also on the night of Sept. 17, a man in a private security uniform stabbed nine people at the Crossroads Center in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and reportedly asked one victim they were Muslim. An off-duty police officer shot and killed the attacker, who was a "soldier of the Islamic State," Rasd, a news agency linked to Islamic State, claimed.

An explosion also took place in a garbage can near a Marine Corps charity run in New Jersey on Sept. 17. Two days later, another explosive device, containing as many as five devices, exploded at Elizabeth transit station, New Jersey.

ISIS, an offshoot of al Qaeda, wants to establish a caliphate in the Levant region and beyond. While it is losing territory in both Iraq and Syria, where it operates from, it still has 18,000 to 22,000 fighters there despite some 13,000 airstrikes by the international coalition led by the United States, CIA Director John Brennan said recently.

The group uses brutal methods to torture and punish those who it considers to be its enemies, including Muslims who do not believe in its version of Islam. Christians and other minorities are among its main targets.

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