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Federal agents raid Philadelphia mosque and arrest its imam

PHILADELPHIA -- Federal agents raided a mosque and two houses in Philadelphia yesterday and took a Muslim cleric into custody on immigration charges, authorities and witnesses said.

Internal Revenue Service agents executed a search warrant at the Ansaar Allah Islamic Society and an adjacent house in the city's Bridesburg section, as well as another house in Northeast Philadelphia, according to IRS spokesman Skip Bedics.

No one was arrested on criminal charges, but immigration authorities detained Mohamed Ghorab, an Egyptian who is imam at the small mosque, housed inside a cinderblock garage.

FBI agents also were on hand for the raid, but the bureau's Philadelphia spokeswoman, Jerri Williams, said they were present only to offer support. She declined to discuss details of the case, but said it had ''no direct connection to terrorism."

Ghorab's wife, Meriem Moumen, said armed agents seized her husband as the couple dropped off their daughter at school a few blocks from the mosque.

Moumen, 33, said one of the agents accused her of being involved in terrorism. She said her husband is peaceful and has no ties to any terrorist groups. Sobbing, she insisted that they were ''just a regular family."

''He's only the leader of the mosque," she said. ''He's not involved in anything. We were treated like dogs."

A spokesman for the US attorney's office in Philadelphia declined to discuss the case. Bedics would not say what IRS agents were looking for.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Michael Gilhooly said Ghorab, a visitor to the United States, had been ordered deported by an immigration court, but had been free on bond while he appealed the decision.

During the search, ICE agents ''determined that the conditions of Mr. Ghorab's bond had changed, and he was taken into custody pending removal from the United States," Gilhooly said. He declined to elaborate.

Worshipers gathering at the mosque hours after the morning raid said agents had broken down doors, opened cabinets, and taken away boxes of records.

Hany Gab, a member of the mosque, said Ghorab was a father figure who simply wanted to remain in the United States to teach Islam.

''He is against killing anyone at anytime, anywhere," Gab said.

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