Bert Wilkinson, Associated Press Writer
GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP):
Colleagues of a former opposition member of Guyana's Parliament expressed disbelief yesterday that he could be involved in an alleged plot to attack New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Abdul Kadir, who authorities said was arrested in Trinidad as he prepared to board a flight to Venezuela, had never expressed extremist views or hatred of the United States, said James McAlister, who served with him in Guyana's parliament.
"He was a very principled and disciplined person," said McAlister, a fellow member of the opposition People's National Party. "He never aired any fundamentalist views or showed any such symptoms."
Oscar Clarke, a former member of parliament and general secretary of the party, said he too was sceptical of U.S. allegations that Kadir and three other Muslims planned to destroy the airport by blowing up a jet fuel artery that runs through several neighbourhoods.
"I would be definitely shocked and surprised if anything is proven against him," Clarke said.
Served in parliament
Kadir, 55, served in the parliament until last year, when it was disbanded before general elections in the former Dutch and British colony on thenorth coast of South America.
He was arrested in Trinidad and Tobago with a man identified as Kareem Ibrahim, a citizen of the twin-island Caribbean nation.
U.S. authorities said Russell Defreitas, an American citizen and native of Guyana, was in custody in Brooklyn. The fourth man, Abdel Nur of Guyana, was still being sought in Trinidad.
Kadir's wife, Isha Kadir, told The Associated Press that her husband knew Abdel Nur in Guyana in the 1980s but they were no longer in contact.
"We have not seen him for a long time and I would be surprised if my husband has any links with him still," she said in a phone interview from her home in Guyana.
Mrs. Kadir said Kadir, a Shiite Muslim, was travelling to Venezuela to pick up a travel visa to attend an Islamic religious conference in Iran. She planned to travel to Trinidad to try to meet with her husband before he is extradited to the United States.
"We have no interest in blowing up anything in the U.S.," she told AP. "We have relatives in the U.S."
Kadir, who studied civil engineering at the University of Guyana and at the Trinidad campus of the University of the West Indies, also served as mayor in Linden, a small city south of Georgetown, the Guyanese capital.
He also worked for years as a civil engineer in the state-owned bauxite company before leaving to set up a building-contractor business.
Kadir was a friend and associate of an Iranian cleric, Muhammad Hassan Abrahemi, who was abducted, shot to death and left in a sand pit east of Georgetown in 2004.
He and his wife have three children, who have all studied religion in Iran, Isha Kadir said.
His wife said she suspects her husband's arrest is linked to two American Muslims who stayed with the family in Guyana for a week last month. She knew one only as Muhammed and did not know the other's name.
"I am now wondering if those Muslim brothers did not set us up," she said. "I can't say for sure but we have nothing to hide. We are not involved in anything."
Guyana's government sought to distance itself from Kadir, noting his role as an opposition figure. "This latest development brings into sharper focus the need for greater cooperation among countries in the fight against international terrorism," the government said in a statement.
Muslims, mostly Sunnis, make up about nine per cent of Guyana's population of about 770,000. They are about six per cent of Trinidad's population.
Trinidad is home to a radical Muslim group, Jamaat al Muslimeen, which launched an unsuccessful rebellion in 1990 that left 24 dead.