Tags: Christopher Cornell | terrorism | Cincinnati | mosque | U.S. Capitol

Cincinnati Mosque Members Deny Knowing Terror Suspect

By    |   Friday, 16 January 2015 09:18 AM

Members of a suburban Cincinnati mosque where 20-year-old terror suspect Christopher Cornell's family said he "found peace" and worshiped said Thursday they'd never seen the long-haired, bearded young man in their mosque, and questioned his conversion to Islam.

"I've never met him," one of the members of the Masjid Akubakr Siddique mosque told The Cincinnati Enquirer Thursday when shown a picture of Cornell. "We don't know him."

Another half-dozen members likewise did not recognize Cornell, who is accused of plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol building with pipe bombs and then to shoot people as they came running out.

The 20-year-old, who lived with his parents and whose family describes him as a "mama's boy," was arrested Wednesday outside a gun store after he bought two M-15 semi-automatic weapons. Federal authorities say he was using the Internet to plot an assassination on congressional employees, and is being held without bond in the Butler County Jail in Hamilton, Ohio, on charges of the attempted killing of U.S. government officers and possession of firearms to further an attempted crime of violence.

Cornell would have stood out among worshipers at the mosque, members said, because most people who go there for prayers are immigrants from West Africa, and they speak little or no English. The mosque is a small place, located in a former thrift store, and people who go there to pray every day told the Enquirer that Cornell, whose parents said he converted to Islam just six months ago, would have been noticed.

Others complained that their mosque had been dragged into Cornell's affairs after the 20-year-old, who calls himself Raheel Mahrus Ubayda, told his parents he was going there for prayers.

Further, members told the newspaper that even if Cornell did come to their mosque, he would not have heard radical ideas about attacking the government, as prayers at the church attract about a dozen people daily who say brief prayers and then leave. Friday's services involve a visiting cleric who speaks about daily life, not politics, they said.

Cornell is not speaking publicly, but his conversion appears to have happened over the past two years since his graduation from high school. He grew a traditional beard and started speaking with a Middle Eastern accent, and began watching violent online jihad videos and sending messages on social media to advocate attacking Americans.

His parents, however, describe Cornell as a "mama's boy who never left the house," the Enquirer reported.

His father, John Cornell, has many anti-government theories of his own, reports the Enquirer saying that during their interview with him he told them several conspiracy theories including opinions about the Illuminati and claims that the Catholic Church sells illegal drugs.

He also told the paper his son won't get fair treatment from the government, saying he has "no faith in this country."

In a separate interview, the elder Cornell told NBC News that he believes his son was coerced by the FBI, and that he could not have pulled off the elaborate plot by himself.

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"I think a lot of it was coercion. I think he got coerced," he said. "No way he had the money to carry out any kind of terrorist attack ... people that really know Chris, they know he's a good guy."

He described his son as being "more like a 16-year-old kid than a 20-year old. There's no way he could've come up with something like this ... His best friend is his kitty cat. He's never even fired a gun before."

Local police officers have been aware of the younger Cornell for some time, and noted that in 2013 he attended a memorial service for the victims of 9/11 and stood silently, carrying a sign saying, "9/11 was an inside job."

Cornell changed his name at some point last year and started posting videos supporting the Islamic State, writing in one instant message that he believes "we should just wage jihad under our own orders and plan attacks and everything," FBI reports sow.

However, court documents do not show if Cornell had overseas ties or was working with anybody else. One neighbor told the Enquirer that Cornell did not leave his family's apartment much, and that the young man seemed like a shy, socially awkward person who "would have been easily drawn in, probably by anyone."

The manager of the gun shop where Cornell bought his weapons said he was calm, but did not know much about guns, and that he was not aggressive.

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones told the Enquirer that Cornell is speaking with a Middle Eastern accent while in jail, where he is being held in an isolation unit, and that he's asked for a clock so he knows when to say his prayers.

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Members of a suburban Cincinnati mosque where 20-year-old terror suspect Christopher Cornell's family said he "found peace" and worshiped said Thursday they'd never seen the long-haired, bearded young man in their mosque, and questioned his conversion to Islam.
Christopher Cornell, terrorism, Cincinnati, mosque, U.S. Capitol
Friday, 16 January 2015 09:18 AM
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