Blast From The Past
- Hitler and the Cold War distracted us from the eternal 1,400 year struggle against militant Islam.
- Perhaps the first modern act of Muslim terrorism I remember while growing up was the assassination of Presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy.
(Washington Post) - On a spring day in 1977, members of a fringe Muslim group, armed with shotguns and swords, took 100 members of a Jewish organization in Washington hostage. The group then stormed a rival mosque, holding prayergoers at gunpoint. And two blocks from the White House, the militants shot their way into the District’s government building, killing a reporter and a security guard, and leaving Marion Barry, then a council member, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the chest.
Forty years after one of the District’s most terrifying days, survivors of the “Hanafi siege” gathered for the first time in decades Thursday night to recount the dramatic if largely forgotten episode in Washington history.
“It was an unbelievable time, but I guess so many other things have eclipsed it,” said Mark Tuohey, then an assistant U.S. attorney, who entered the District building with police during the 40-hour hostage situation that followed. “We shouldn’t forget, because . . . in Washington, it may just be a matter of time” before a reprise.
|A member of the Hanafi Movement stands guard outside the sect’s D.C. headquarters in March 1977 during the group’s siege of three downtown buildings. (United Press International)|
The leader of the Hanafi siege, Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, had been a victim four years earlier of one of the District’s most horrific crimes. An Indiana native who became an admired jazz musician and converted to Islam, Khaalis in 1973 had begun publishing letters critical of a leader in the Nation of Islam. Months after doing so, he returned to his Shepherd Park home to find seven members of his family murdered, including his 9-day-old grandson, drowned in a wash basin.
A group of Muslims from Philadelphia later were convicted of the killings. But for the next four years, hate festered in Khaalis, prosectors would later say. He grew unstable and isolated, stockpiling weapons in his 16th Street NW home and recruiting fellow followers of the Hanafi sect of Islam to carry out his plan for revenge.
At about 11 a.m. on the morning of March 9, 1977, the mayhem began at the headquarters of the Jewish community service organization B’nai B’rith International, near the intersection of 17th Street and Rhode Island Avenue NW.
Khaalis and other men with guns and machetes stormed the building threatening to “cut people’s heads off.”
Inside, they corralled prisoners into a construction area and set up what they told hostages was an “execution room.”
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