Boca Hezbollah Imam Holds Service for Nephew “Martyr”

One Islamist’s “martyr” is a normal man’s “terrorist.”

Mohamad al-Halabi is the imam of the American Islamic Center of Florida (AICF), a Shiite mosque located in Boca Raton, Florida. While he, his wife and his children live in the U.S., much of his heart and mind is overseas in Syria, where he grew up and where many in his family still reside and where other members of his family have recently died fighting. The imam’s mosque just held a service for one of these dead, referring to him as a “martyr.” But was he in fact a martyr or was he a common terrorist, and was the imam himself involved in terror?

A flyer is found on the Facebook sites of AICF and al-Halabi announcing a memorial service that took place this past month, at the mosque. It states, “Please join the Sheikh Al-Halabi’s Family on Saturday, July 25th to offer Fateha (prayer) for: Martyr Mohamad Ali Haj Mousa, Nephew of Sheikh Al-Halabi’s wife. Mohamad Ali was martyred in Al-Foua city, Syria.”

The imam’s daughter, Nour Ali, stated about the death of her cousin, “My 18 year old cousin, Mohamad Ali Hajmousa, passed away while fighting to protect our country and people in Syria.” On July 24th, at 3:17 pm, she wrote that he “passed away last night.”

To al-Halabi, his daughter Nour, and his other daughter Fatima, whose Facebook banner is that of her dead cousin, Haj Mousa was a hero, or as the flyer puts it, a “martyr.” However, given the circumstances of Haj Mousa’s death, attaching any positive label to him seems to be a euphemistic exaggeration if not an outright lie. The probability is that Haj Mousa was nothing more than a petty terrorist fighting to protect a terrorist dictator, Bashar al-Assad, against other terrorists.

At the end of March, an announcement was made regarding the formation of a new coalition between Sunni militant groups involved in the fighting in Syria called Jaish al-Fatah (Army of Conquest). The general goal of the groups is to oust the Bashar al-Assad led regime from Syria.

The groups include: al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front); Ahrar al-Sham, whose co-founder Abu Khaled al-Soury fought alongside al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and was close to al-Qaeda’s current chief Ayman al-Zawahri; Faylaq al-Sham (Sham Legion), an alliance of Muslim Brotherhood-linked battalions; and al-Qaeda front Jund al-Aqsa (Soldiers of al-Aqsa); with assistance from at least two groups that have received covert support from the CIA, Division 13 and Fursan al-Haq.

Last month, in response to an offensive by the Syrian army and its Hezbollah (Hizballah) allies, who were attempting to retake areas from insurgents, the Army of Conquest targeted two Shiite villages in Northern Syria. The villages, al-Foua and Kefraya, were hit with rockets and heavy mortar shells. This resulted in insurgents seizing control of the village checkpoints. Haj Mousa, who was at the time situated in al-Foua, most probably died as a result of this barrage.

Syria’s civilians, who many times find themselves trapped in towns and cities, have been the recipients of massive attacks from the air, usually from those loyal to Assad. 100,000 civilians have lost their lives, since the conflict began in March 2011.

Haj Mousa was not a civilian. He was fighting on the side of Assad and Hezbollah against an Islamist organization that involves those who have received weapons from the U.S. government – essentially terrorists versus terrorists.

For Mohamed al-Halabi, memorializing so-called “martyrs” is an all too frequent occurrence. He has lost other family to similar circumstances; one – a cousin – was killed during an attack on the Sayyidah Zaynab mosque, near the Syrian capital of Damascus, in 2013.

And like Haj Mousa, these family members are most probably not innocent bystanders.

But given the fact that a number of members of al-Halabi’s family actively support terrorists overseas, it is understandable that they would, from time to time, place themselves in very dangerous situations.

Being that Al-Halabi was born and raised in Syria, where much of his family have remained, it is not uncommon to find pictures glorifying Syrian President Bashar Assad and/or Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah on al-Halabi’s family members’ Facebook pages. Indeed, al-Halabi has done the same.

Al-Halabi’s beloved nephew, Ahmed, a.k.a. Ahmed HD, is a member of Hezbollah. He states it right on his Facebook page, alongside a graphic of a Hezbollah fighter with a large Hezbollah logo. Ahmed posted these things this past February, and within the posting he placed (‘tagged’) al-Halabi’s name and a link to al-Halabi’s own Facebook page.

Al-Halabi and his nephew, Ahmed, frequently ‘tag’ each other in Facebook photos and regularly communicate with each other next to the photos.

On Ahmed’s Facebook page, along with photos of Hassan Nasrallah and Bashar Assad and photos of himself dressed in camouflage brandishing rifles, he has an abundance of photos of his uncle al-Halabi, including one of al-Halabi and al-Halabi’s son, Mahmoud, who is currently serving in the U.S. Marines. He also has at least one photo of himself with al-Halabi.

Imam Al-Halabi cannot be phased by any of this, as it seems he too was recruited into Hezbollah years earlier.

In June 2010, al-Halabi wrote, “We stood in line in front of the people from recruitment for training, in order to defend Lebanon after the invasion of Beirut by the Israeli enemy. The youngest among us was 15 years old and the oldest was 60 years old. When we were asked, we had one answer: ‘We want to fight, and we want to liberate Lebanon and Palestine. We want to die with dignity.’”

Al-Halabi mentioned that, at the back of the volunteer line, there was a “helpless” person with “crippled feet pushing his wheelchair with his left hand and his right hand hidden in his sleeve.” According to al-Halabi, the crippled man told him that he had been “a survivor of the October War” and that he wished to use his injured body as a “sandbag” in order to “shield hero fighters” in battle.

Following the June 1982 Israeli siege against the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Beirut, the government of Iran put up money to pay for recruitment centers for a new militant organization made up of religious Shiites to compete with the largely secular Amal Shiite group. The organization would be called Hezbollah or Party of God, and its focus was in carrying out guerilla warfare against Israelis, who were conducting military activities in Lebanon.

At the time, a large percentage of the Beirut population was Palestinian. The “October War” that the crippled man was speaking of was the Yom Kippur War, which took place in October 1973.

If all this is correct, if al-Halabi was in fact recruited into Hezbollah, it would mean that Mohamad al-Halabi had lied on his immigration forms, when he sought residency in the United States, as the forms ask if the applicant was ever a member of a terrorist organization. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1999, and Hezbollah had already been named to the U.S. State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) over one year prior to his arrival, in October 1997.

Outside al-Qaeda, Hezbollah has been responsible for the murders of more Americans than any other known terrorist organization, most of the murders taking place shortly after al-Halabi’s alleged recruitment.

Furthermore, in August 2012, the U.S. Treasury Department designated Hezbollah as part of the support network for the government of Syria and as playing an “integral role in the continued violence being carried out by the Assad regime against the Syrian population.”

This is relevant, as al-Halabi continues to associate and communicate with members of Hezbollah and other pro-Assad forces, be it family members or otherwise.

If Mohamad al-Halabi wants to memorialize and glorify terrorists, he should not be able to do so within the borders of the United States, where he may be residing under false pretenses.

And if he is able to do so from U.S. shores, it should only be from behind bars.

Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.