Feds Charge Kentucky Islamic Center Leader With Hiring A Hitman

Joshua Gill | Religion Reporter
  • Federal authorities arrested the imam of the Islamic Center of Lexington, along with two other men, and charged them with hiring a hitman to commit murder in retaliation for bad business deals. 
  • The three men allegedly met with a federal informant posing as a hitman who recorded several conversations with them in which they asked the informant to murder a man and then arranged to have the murder sanctioned by an Islamic cleric. 
  • The Islamic Center said its members were “shocked” by the case and emphasized that those who conspire to commit murder are condemned according to Islam. 

Federal authorities charged the Islamic Center of Lexington’s leader and two other men with hiring a hitman to murder people over sour business dealings.

Authorities filed affidavits on May 8 against Mahmoud Shalash, the imam of the Islamic Center of Lexington in Kentucky, and Abdul Hadi and John Sadiqullah, alleging the men hired a federal informant posing as a hitman to break the legs of one person and to kill another in retaliation for bad business deals.

Shalash, 70, and Sadiqullah, 31, faced a preliminary hearing on May 9, where U.S. Magistrate Judge Matthew A. Stinnett ordered them detained until a Tuesday hearing. (RELATED: Video Of Philly Islamic Center Children Singing They Will ‘Chop Off Their Heads’ For Allah Sparks Investigation)

Stinnett subsequently ordered Hadi, 34, detained until a later hearing.

Federal authorities claimed that Shalash knew that the man he hired to inflict bodily harm and death did not live in Kentucky, which qualified the case for federal jurisdiction since the “hitman” would have to travel across state lines, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

Officer William J. Jackson, a member of a federal task force with the FBI, said Shalash first met with the informant on March 12 at a Days Motel, where Shalash asked the informant to track down a debtor who Shalash said owed him $80,000. Shalash initially said “no” when the informant asked if he wanted him to break the debtor’s legs, but later assented when the informant said he would do so if he had to in order to get the money.

“Do whatever you have to do to get my money back,” Shalash allegedly told the informant later according to LHL.

The informant said he met with both Sadiqullah and Shalash on April 30, this time to discuss another man, labeled in the affidavit as Victim 2, who Sadiqullah claimed had sold a taxi company to him but then stole the client list. The informant asked what Sadiqullah wanted done to the man.

“I want him dead,” Sadiqullah said, according to the informant’s testimony in Jackson’s affidavit.

“It’s not about the money. He took more than money from me. He took my livelihood. He really destroyed us. If someone could kill him (Victim 2) for $10,000, we all four will pay someone $10,000,” the informant said Sadiqullah added.

The informant suggested that Shalash and Sadiqullah talk it over and then, if they agreed to have the man killed, meet at their mosque where Shalash could issue a fatwa, an official ruling from a Muslim cleric, to sanction the killing. Sadiqullah reportedly told the informant that he and his associates met with a “sheikh,” believed to be Shalash, on May 2 to discuss and officially sanction the killing.

FBI special agent Andre S. Mugnier reported in another affidavit that Victim 2 testified to authorities that Sadiqullah came to his place of business along with Hadi and another unidentified man on May 2 to demand money from him and to threaten him and his family. Hadi reportedly told FBI officers that Victim 2 owed him $20,000.

The Islamic Center of Lexington issued a statement on its website, saying that members of the center were “shocked” by the allegations against Shalash.

“Muslims in Lexington are shocked to learn the news about the arrest of Imam Mahmoud Shalash. The situation is unfolding and we do not have enough details at this time,” the statement reads. “Also, we believe that every American citizen is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”

The center also condemned the practice of murder, by one’s own hand or another’s, saying that Allah condemns those who conspire to commit murder. It said:

We would like to emphasize that Islam is a religion built on peace and tolerance. Murder or conspiring for a murder is regarded in the Quran as a grave sin:
“And he who intentionally kills a believer, his reward is Hell. He shall abide therein forever, and the wrath and the curse of God are upon him. And
He has prepared for him a dreadful doom.” (Chapter 4: Verse 93)
“If any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one
saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.” (Chapter 5: Verse 32)

Authorities have detained the three men in Woodford County jail where they await their respective hearings to determine whether they will be detained until their trials.

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