Terrorism suspect's commitment waned

The FBI's interview with one of the Liberty City terrorist suspects offers fresh behind-the-scenes details of the group's alleged plot to blow up federal buildings and the Sears Tower.

The Miami Herald/August 6, 2006
By Jay Weaver

At first glance, Lyglenson Lemorin appears to be just another follower of Narseal Batiste, the ringleader of the so-called Liberty City Seven terror group.

But close scrutiny of Lemorin's interview with FBI agents following his June arrest casts some doubt about his commitment to the group's alleged terror plans.

The first sign distancing the 31-year-old Haitian immigrant from Batiste and the other accused co-conspirators: the FBI busted him in Atlanta, not Miami.

Lemorin had moved to Atlanta after ending his involvement with Batiste's group, which was suspected of plotting to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and federal buildings in five U.S. cities.

In his post-arrest interview, he told the FBI that Batiste "tricked everyone" into pledging allegiance to al Qaeda and knew "nothing good would come from this," saying he did not join in shooting video of alleged terror targets in Miami.

At another point, Lemorin told agents he didn't want to be in the "al Qaeda circle" and didn't like the "al Qaeda talk."

Since his June 22 arrest in Atlanta, Lemorin has been transferred to Miami. He is in custody along with the other six defendants -- all indicted on charges of conspiring with the terrorist group al Qaeda to bomb FBI buildings and the Sears Tower. Their trial is set for next March.

Prosecutors argue the seven defendants -- including Lemorin -- took the oath to al Qaeda in March before playing some role to carry out the alleged plot to wage a terror war against the United States.

"Following his arrest, Lemorin gave a detailed statement to the FBI admitting his involvement in the plot to overthrow the United States and bomb buildings," prosecutors Jacqueline Arango and Richard Getchell contend in court papers.

Lemorin got to know Batiste in 2005 when he went to work for his stucco and masonry business in Miami. He became friendly with Batiste and some of the other men who worked for his company and became acquainted with Batiste's spiritual side.

Batiste, a Chicago transplant, talked about building up a righteous nation of the Moorish Science Temple, a sect that blends Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Batiste and his men regularly met in a squat, concrete warehouse in Liberty City that they dubbed "the Temple." Batiste taught them martial arts and military movements.

Last October, Batiste began talking with a North Miami store owner of Arabic descent about his mission to create a Moorish government within the United States. He explained to the shopkeeper that extreme Islamic groups, such as al Qaeda, could help.

The shopkeeper, an FBI informant, told the agents handling the undercover case. They had him introduce another informant -- an Arabic friend who posed as an al Qaeda representative -- to Batiste.

Despite suspicions about that informant, known as Mohammad, Batiste came to trust him.

Loyalty oath

And on March 10, he led Batiste in al Qaeda's loyalty oath inside a GMC truck. Lemorin was present but was asked to leave during the ceremony. Six days later, Lemorin and five other Batiste followers also took the pledge, in another Miami warehouse that was under FBI video surveillance.

But, according to Lemorin's interview with the FBI, some immediately expressed regrets.

"[Lemorin] believes that he was one of the first to object to the oath," FBI agents wrote in their summary. "He advised that one other brother questioned Batiste also.

'During this time, Batiste questioned them, asking if they were scared or coward. Lemorin feared Batiste. . . . Lemorin stated that the oath was `the last straw.' "

After the ceremony, Batiste and Mohammad allegedly talked in depth about their plans with the others present, according to prosecutors. Batiste wanted to destroy the Sears Tower, they said. Mohammad wanted Batiste's group to help al Qaeda blow up five FBI buildings in Miami, Chicago, Washington, New York and Los Angeles.

But in his FBI interview, Lemorin said he "attempted to stray from the group."

Mohammad later gave Batiste a video camera and rental van to do surveillance of the FBI building in North Miami Beach and other local federal buildings.

"I was present when [Mohammad] gave Brother Naz [Batiste] a video camera to film target locations . . . to destroy," Lemorin said in a signed written statement for the FBI's Atlanta office.

But in his post-arrest interview, Lemorin told FBI agents that he did not participate with Batiste and some of the others in taking video footage of local federal buildings. He told them that Mohammad planned to send the footage to al Qaeda to see the targets. "[Lemorin] believed it was for them to do something bad to us," FBI agents wrote.

In mid-April -- after the arrival of one of Batiste's spiritual advisors from Chicago -- the group started to unravel. The advisor, Sultan Khanbey, accused Batiste of allowing an FBI snitch to infiltrate the organization, accused him of treason against the Moorish nation and held a "trial" against him. Khanbey kicked out Batiste.

Soon after, Khanbey and some of Batiste's followers -- including another spiritual advisor from Chicago, Master Atheea -- met at the Liberty City warehouse.

An argument erupted, and Khanbey fired a shot past Atheea's left ear.

Forgotten gun

Miami police arrested Khanbey. The firearm he used to threaten Atheea belonged to Lemorin, who had a concealed-weapons permit. Lemorin told the FBI that he had left the gun -- a 9mm Hi-Point pistol -- at the warehouse and forgotten about it.

By the time of the shooting, Lemorin told agents, he had left Miami for Atlanta. He said he had rental car papers to prove it.

"He moved to Atlanta to try to make things better for himself," said Linda Polydor, who has two infant children with Lemorin and has known him since the two were students at Miami Edison Middle School.

"How could they think he could build a bomb and not even afford a pair of shoes?"

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.