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Cambridge mosque distances itself from terrorism suspects

The Islamic Society of Boston in Cambridge.Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff

The Islamic Society of Boston forcefully sought to distance itself Tuesday from any connection to high-profile terrorism suspects who have reportedly prayed at its Cambridge mosque.

Nicole Mossalam, a spokeswoman for the society’s Cultural Center, said the mosque has no record of Aafia Siddiqui, Tarek Mehanna, or Ahmad Abousamra attending services there, contrary to recently published reports.

“No one remembers them participating,” Mossalam said.

“We always have and will continue to fight against such extremism,” Mossalam said in a later statement. “. . . We have a very cooperative relationship with our local law enforcement authorities and are committed to keeping our community safe.”


The Cambridge mosque was the subject of news media reports over the last week that alleged that roughly 10 people connected to terrorism investigations had at one point prayed there, including Siddiqui, who attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, located nearby.

Authorities alleged that Siddiqui was an Al Qaeda contact in the United States in the 1990s and into the early 2000s, before returning to Pakistan. She was arrested in Afghanistan in 2008 and is serving a lengthy prison sentence for grabbing a firearm and shooting at US soldiers and FBI agents during an interrogation.

Siddiqui, 42, was in the news again recently when the Islamic State sought her release in exchange for the release of US journalist James Foley, who was ultimately beheaded by Islamic State militants.

The worldwide focus on the Islamic State has also put a spotlight on Abousamra, 33, who grew up in Stoughton and attended colleges in Boston before fleeing charges that he conspired to support Al Qaeda. Authorities believe that he is now living in Syria — he has Syrian as well as US citizenship — and have offered a $50,000 reward for his capture.

ABC News reported last week that Abousamra could be supporting the Islamic State’s public relations campaign.


Abousamra’s codefendant was Mehanna, 31, who was living in Sudbury and earned a doctorate from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. He was convicted of supporting terrorists and was sentenced in 2012 to 17½ years in prison.

Mossalam, the mosque spokeswoman, said the Islamic Society of Boston denounces terrorist groups, specifically the Islamic State. and that the mosque “is not under investigation.”

Mossalam said the only law enforcement agency that has contacted the mosque is the Cambridge Police Department, which called when the news stories appeared. “The police department calle to see if we were OK,” she said.

The mosque has acknowledged previously that other suspected terrorists, including alleged Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, attended prayer services there, but was asked to leave after seeking to promote radical views.

The Globe has reported that Mehanna and Abousamra frequented other mosques in Sharon, Wayland, and Lowell.

Shelley Murphy contributed to this article. Valencia can be reached at Milton.Valencia@-Globe.com, Jacobs at Sally.-Jacobs@Globe.com.