FBI finds link between Detroit man, al-Qaida recruiter

Detroit News


FBI counterterrorism agents have uncovered a link between Sebastian Gregerson, the American Muslim arrested Sunday after he allegedly bought illegal grenades, and an al-Qaida leader who radicalized underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, The News learned Friday.

When FBI agents raided Gregerson’s home on the west side of Detroit on Sunday, they found several CDs marked “Anwar al-Awlaki,” the al-Qaida recruiter who met with Abdulmutallab before the failed Christmas Day 2009 terror attack on a Detroit-bound plane, according to sealed search warrant records obtained by The News.

The CDs are listed among dozens of items seized Sunday, including seven rifles, two AK-47 assault rifles, a shotgun, handguns, thousands of rounds of ammunition, computer equipment and cellphones, according to a sealed search warrant inventory.

The contents of the al-Awlaki CDs are unclear, but the late, radical U.S.-born cleric was known for Internet sermons that helped inspire attacks on the U.S. Abdulmutallab spent hours listening to al-Awlaki’s video clips posted online, FBI Special Agent Timothy Waters testified in 2011.

“When you look through most of the cases of individuals who get arrested for terrorism charges, the vast majority had al-Awlaki on their laptops,” said Seamus Hughes, deputy director of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism.

The cleric’s early sermons were more innocuous, Hughes said.

If the FBI found latter-day al-Awlaki sermons, “that is a red flag that would go off for me,” Hughes said. “Maybe (Gregerson) had the early, innocuous Awlaki stuff, but I doubt the FBI would put that in the search warrant if they weren’t looking at this from a terrorism lens.”

Gregerson’s court-appointed lawyer, David Tholen, could not be reached for comment Friday.

The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office would not discuss the contents of the CDs.