FBI Looking into Islamic Web Site for Leads to Jersey Slayings

 

FBI is trying to determine whether an Islamic Web site that tracked users of an online chat room played a role in the killings

 

Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2005 Posted: 2:52:57PM EST

 

Three weeks after a Coptic Christian family of four was slain in New Jersey’s second-largest city, the FBI is trying to determine whether an Islamic Web site that tracked users of an online chat room played a role in the killings, news agencies reported Tuesday.

 

The site in question, barsomyat.com, is no longer online. However, according to the Associated Press, before it was shut down by its Minnesota hosting company, the site reportedly featured photos of Hossam Armanious and his wife, Amal Garas—who, along with their daughters, Sylvia, 15, and Monica, 8, were found bound and gagged on Jan. 14, their throats and heads stabbed repeatedly. According to a report published Monday by the New York Sun, the site referred to the couple as a "filthy dog" and "his filthy wife."

 

AP reported that Armanious was an active participant in the PalTalk.com instant messaging service, in which he discussed religion with Christians and Muslims. Friends and family members have said the discussions frequently grew heated, and that Armanious received death threats because of his postings under the user name "I Love Jesus."

 

"We do know there is a site that monitors people on PalTalk, but that shouldn't come as a shock," said John Conway, a spokesman for the FBI's Newark office. "That's being investigated. As far as bringing us closer to the motive behind the murders, we're still not there yet. It's still very open."

 

In its report on Monday, the New York Sun quoted one barsomyat.com member writing on the Web site, "This is a picture of the filthy dog, curser of Muhammad, and a photo of his filthy wife, curser of Muhammad. They got what they deserved for their actions in America."

 

After the discovery of the website, Dr. Monir A. Dawoud, Acting President of the American Coptic Association, said, “The discovery of a web site where Christians had their identities revealed, and were targeted for voicing their religious beliefs makes us, as Christians, feel for our safety, and contributes to the speculation that this was a hate crime.”

 

Dawoud urged officials investigating the Jersey City murders to call in the hate crime unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

 

“Adding the FBI Hate Crimes Unit to the investigation would make us feel that nothing was being overlooked,” said Dawoud.

 

While Conway said the FBI does not have a hate crimes unit per se, it does have a unit that investigates civil rights violations. He said FBI agents have been working with county and local authorities since the killings were discovered.

 

The Hudson County prosecutor's office said several potential motives for the slayings are being investigated, including religious animosity. Robbery appears to be a potential motive as well, said Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio, who noted that money was taken from the home and the victims.

 

However, DeFazio did say last week that the grisly slayings of the family of four appeared not to have to stemmed from a simple robbery—which authorities had stressed as being a possible motive.

 

"Certainly, based on the viciousness of the attacks, we think there's more than taking the money that was in the apartment," DeFazio had said.

 

In his statement yesterday, Dawoud stated that "We have faith in the American system of justice, but the initial conflicting reports and the lack of progress have caused fear to overtake our community."

 

"Children are afraid to sleep alone. People are installing double locks on their doors, bars on their windows and sophisticated alarm systems." the ACA head reported.

 

According to the ACA, five law enforcement agencies have been investigating this case—The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, The Jersey City Police, The Federal Bureau of Investigation, The Immigration and Naturalization Service, and The Federal Office of Immigration and Customs. The lead on the case is the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office.

 

 

 

Kenneth Chan

kenneth@christianpost.com  Copyright © 2004 The Christian Post.

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