January 19, 1984 |
Buena, New Jersey
|Suspected member of al-Qaeda;
murdering a guard and wounding another
|Children||1 known child|
|Parents||Charles and Cynthia Mobley|
Sharif Mobley (Arabic: شريف موبلي; born January 19, 1984) is a suspected al-Qaeda and al-Shabab member who was arrested in Yemen in March 2010 by counter-terrorism officers following a shooting in which he was allegedly the perpetrator. Mobley had moved to Yemen two years prior. He was initially arrested along with other suspected militants, before killing a guard during an escape attempt on March 7, 2010.
Mobley is an American citizen who was raised as a Muslim. He claimed to have traveled to Yemen for the purpose of studying Arabic and Islam, although U.S. officials state his purpose was to join a militant group. Mobley had been arrested some time prior to the shooting (for a month according to some reports and several months according to others) in a sweep of suspected al-Qaeda militants. He allegedly shot two guards, one fatally, during an escape attempt from a hospital in which he was undergoing physical evaluation. Mobley was wounded during the ensuing three-hour-long siege before being arrested by Yemeni security forces.
Mobley's parents were both born in the United States. Following his arrest he was reported to have been of Somali descent, however law enforcement officials and family friends indicated that this information was incorrect. Mobley was raised in Atlantic County, New Jersey. He was member of his high school wrestling team and practiced karate, earning a black belt, and graduated from high school in 2002. He moved to Philadelphia and then to Newark, Delaware. He is married, and has a young daughter. In 2005, he earned $75 as an election day worker for the campaign of Governor Jon Corzine.
Mobley received an Islamic upbringing, and as a child, studied Islamic and Arabic language classes at Masjid Quba in Philadelphia, according to the imam, Anas Muhaimin. Mobley was described by former high school classmates as having had "strong religious views" at the time, and having become more radical following graduation. A former colleague who went on to do a military tour in Iraq, Roman Castro, said the last time he saw Mobley, in 2006, Mobley yelled at him: "Get the hell away from me, you Muslim killer!"
In Newark, Delaware, an imam, Abdel-Hadi Shehata, said Mobley had lived in the same apartment complex in the area and occasionally attended the Islamic Society of Delaware (ISD). Shehata said Mobley never discussed his political or religious perspectives with him, and would sometimes ask advice about Islamic religious rituals. Before 2008, he organized religious pilgrimages to the Middle East. Umar Hassan-El, assistant imam at, ISD's mosque in Wilmington, Delaware who shared a room with Mobley during the Hajj in 2004, said, "He gave no indication that he would join a group that he's alleged to be a part of right now. I never heard that boy ever talk about shooting anybody, killing anybody." The FBI and another law-enforcement stated that they did not know of any criminal charges against Mobley in the U.S.
Employment at nuclear power plants
A spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission acknowledged that Mobley had been employed at five different nuclear power facilities, including Three Mile Island, having passed the required background and psychological tests. Mobley was employed as a laborer from 2002 until 2008 for several contractors at three PSEG nuclear power plants on Artificial Island in Lower Alloways Creek, New Jersey. Of the five plants he was employed at, three were in Pennsylvania: the Peach Bottom, Limerick, and Three Mile Island plants; one was Calvert Cliffs in Maryland, and another, Salem-Hope Creek in New Jersey.
He performed maintenance work and carried supplies, and qualified for work there through federal background checks as recently as 2008. Those checks consisted of criminal background checks, drug testing, psychological assessments, and identity verification. A spokesman for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said that Mobley had always been supervised while employed at the plants, did not cause any problems, and was not known to have breached security at any point during his employment there. As a laborer, he would not have had access to any sensitive or security related information. According to both an unnamed U.S. law enforcement official and Mohammed Albasha, a spokesman for the Yemeni Embassy, there was no known connection between Mobley's employment at the power plants and the time he spent in Yemen.
While the majority of Mobley's responsibilities at the nuclear power plants were routine, he "did have unescorted access to the interior of the plants but did not have access to computers or high-security information." Mobley voiced his militant views during his work at the nuclear power plants according to a report written by the inspector general of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission which supports stricter security rules. Mobley referred to non-Muslim coworkers as "infidels" and remarked to some in his labor union, “We are brothers in the union, but if a holy war comes, look out.”
In 2007, Mobley returned to Masjid Quba, attending on occasion and consulting the imam there about his plans to study in Yemen. The imam says he tried to discourage him from going to Yemen, suggesting that he instead go to Egypt or Morocco, but Mobley refused his advice and has not returned to the mosque for three years.
According to one report, Mobley had been in Yemen "for at least a year" prior to the shooting. At first he studied Arabic at a language institute in Sana'a and then Al-Eman University, which is run by Sheikh Abdul Majeed al-Zindani. A later report stated that he had traveled to Yemen two years prior. Two years before the shooting, he moved to Yemen supposedly to study Arabic and Islam, but a law enforcement official said he had traveled overseas for the purpose of joining a terrorist organization. The last time his mother Cynthia spoke to him was in January. A U.S. law enforcement official said the government had been aware of Mobley's possible extremist ties "long before" he was arrested.
Mobley was in contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, the al-Qaeda former imam now based in Yemen who was also in contact with three of the September 11 attacks hijackers, the Christmas Day Bomber, and Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, according to officials from the U.S. and Yemen. He hoped al-Awlaki would become his al Qaeda mentor, according to senior U.S. security officials.
Mobley was detained in early March 2010 in Sana'a, the capital of Yemen, one of 11 suspected al-Qaeda and al-Shabab affiliated militants; one suspected militant was killed during the raid resulting in the arrests. On Tuesday, March 3 (three days prior to the shooting), Yemeni security forces arrested 11 members of al-Qaeda cell during a raid on a location frequented by that cell in the Sawad Hansh area of Sana'a. A Yemeni source reported that following a thorough investigation and surveillance, Yemeni security forces raided a residence belonging to the father of one of the wanted militants. During the raid, the suspect's father opened fire on the security forces hitting one of the officers. The suspect's father was killed in the ensuing firefight.
Mobley was initially incorrectly identified in the Yemeni press as being a German citizen of African origin. On the day of the shooting, Mobley was incorrectly identified by News Yemen, a Yemeni English language newspaper, as "Shareef Mubaili, ... a German of Somali origin." CNN Arabic reported that the "German Mubaili" was severely injured during a shootout at the Republican Hospital after stealing a guard's gun. According to a "senior official", he was detained at a high security intelligence prison several months ago while the Yemeni Embassy in Washington, D.C., said he had been detained earlier this month. Mobley is also suspected of being a member of the same al-Qaeda branch as Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who failed in his attempt to bomb a passenger plane on Christmas Day, 2009.
Following his arrest, he claimed he was sick and was transferred to the Republican Hospital, also in Sana'a. He was treated for complications involving a metal rod which had previously been implanted in his leg. He spent a week at the hospital, where he befriended the guards assigned to him, praying with them, reading Qur'an together, and asking them to teach him Arabic.
On March 7, 2010, he persuaded a guard to unshackle him at prayer time, which the guard did. The guard went into the washroom to perform the ablution required for prayers, and reportedly left his gun unattended on a chair. At this time, a second guard who had been present left the room and Mobley picked up the gun, and as the guard exited the washroom Mobley shot him once in the head and then in the chest, killing him almost instantly. Another guard heard the gunshots and entered the room and was shot by Mobley in the kidney and abdomen but had called for reinforcements prior to entering the room and survived.
The entire sixth floor of the hospital was sealed until the arrival of additional security forces accompanied by members of the anti-terrorism unit. He was then chased through the hospital, and engaged in a shootout that ended with his capture after he had barricaded himself in one of the rooms in the hospital by anti-terrorism police whose smoke grenades ignited a small fire. The siege lasted for three hours before Mobley was captured after being severely wounded and "a number of other individuals" were shot by him. According to Albasha, the embassy spokesman, the guard who had been wounded in the shootout was in serious condition.
According the Arabic version of CNN, Mobley allegedly killed two Yemeni guards during the shootout and critically wounded a third. CNN Arabic wrote that this "was contributed by a Yemeni official in statement to CNN". This, however, contradicts numerous English sources, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Associated Press, ABC News, as well as the English version of CNN, and News Yemen, which all state that one guard was killed and another critically wounded. The same article in the Arabic CNN, in a detailed description of the shooting, mentioned only one guard being killed.
The U.S. government was previously aware of Mobley's extremist ties, but Yemeni officials stated that he had not been on their list of wanted militants. According to a senior official involved in the case, the attack demonstrates that Mobley "is highly trained in the use of firearms", and according to The New York Times, the attack indicates that he had a "level of training and cunning characteristic of the terror network." The official also criticized the guards for their negligence in handling Mobley. He is likely to be tried in Yemen as opposed to being returned to the U.S., a U.S. official stated. According to Yemeni law, killing a guard could be punishable by execution by firing squad.
The U.S. government is in the process of reviewing his past activities in the United States, including his employment as a contract laborer at several U.S. nuclear power plants between 2002 and 2008. At this time, we are not aware of any security-related concerns or incidents related to Mr. Mobley's employment at these locations; however we continue to review his past activities.
Mobley's parents were interviewed by the FBI. His mother denied the accusations against her son, describing him as "an excellent person who's never been in trouble" and "a good Muslim". His father, Charles Mobley, said he knew nothing of his son's current situation, adding, "I can tell you this: He's no terrorist.” Sharif Mobley has not issued any public statement since the incident. Asked about Mobley's apparent links to al-Awlaki, a Yemeni embassy spokesman in Washington, D.C., said he was not surprised, because al-Awlaki: "is a fixture in jihad 101." Mobley remained in the custody of the Yemeni government on charges of capital murder until October 2010, and was charged with killing one guard and wounding another by a criminal court on October 27.
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