By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Although a meeting between FBI agents and the minister of Mosque Number 45 was scheduled for March 23 in Houston, an FBI spokesman who the alleged targets insist has been acting as a liaison denied the bureau is investigating death threats against the two former NOI ministers.
The reported FBI probe comes on the heels of allegations by sources close to ailing Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan that he was poisoned, possibly by government agents. Last week, NOI officials tried to suppress reports that Farrakhan, stricken with prostate cancer in 1991, is gravely ill.
Asked why anyone in the NOI would want to kill him and Quannel, Khallid told the Voice that fanatics within the black Muslim group "believe all of Minister Farrakhan's enemies should be eliminated before he dies."
In 1994, James Edward Bess, a defrocked NOI minister, shot Khallid in both legs in a botched assassination attempt. Four bodyguards and a bystander also were wounded in the attack in a parking lot after Khallid had spoken at the University of California at Riverside.
Khallid, Farrakhan's former national assistant, was fired by the Minister five years ago for making racist and anti-Semitic comments. He now heads the Dallas-based New Black Panther Party and New Black Muslim Movement, and is the organizer of the controversial Million Youth March.
Quannel X, 28, the NOI's former national youth minister, resigned under pressure in 1995 after haranguing Jews. He is the minister of information for Khallid's new group.
According to Quannel, on March 8, Talib Muhammad, chief of security for the Panthers and the Muslims, was stopped by Houston cops as he drove along a busy street in the predominantly black third ward. Talib was ordered to "keep his hands where the cops could see them." About 15 minutes later, a black Mercury with tinted windows pulled up. Two white men exited the vehicle, approached Talib, ordered him out, and identified themselves as special agents John Siwallick and Ned Garner.
Quannel says the agents told Talib they knew who he was, that they understood he had a relationship with Quannel X, and had been seen on several occasions protecting him.
After Talib acknowledged that he was both Khallid's and Quannel's bodyguard, the agents told him that a reliable source at Mosque Number 45 in Houston had told them that two members were assembling a hit squad to assassinate Khallid and Quannel.
The agents wanted Talib to deliver the message to Quannel. "We're bringing you this information for you to protect yourself and also to tell him to protect himself," they reportedly said. "We're only trying to help him."
Quannel says he subsequently learned that FBI agents had been questioning the owners of Chinese restaurants in the area after the license plates of a Mercedes Benz he had been driving were traced to a restaurant owned by his wife's parents. "Brother Quannel X's wife is black, but one of her parents is Chinese," says Khallid. "We don't know if they believe he was involved in extorting money from the Chinese."
Khallid says that finding no criminal wrongdoing on Quannel's part, the agents told his wife and in-laws about the alleged plot. Because the NOI has a history of dealing ruthlessly with disgruntled former members, Khallid and Quannel thought the threats might be credible.
Still, they suspected that, based on the FBI's notorious "dirty tricks" campaign to undermine black unity, agents might be setting them up.
In the 1960s, the FBI used fake documents, infiltrators, and informants against groups such as the Nation of Islam and the Black Panthers as part of J. Edgar Hoover's COINTELPRO operation to disrupt civil rights and antiwar groups.
So, on March 15, Khallid, Quannel, and Illyas Karriem, a member of their group, went to the FBI "to interrogate them." Rolando Moss, the African American spokesman at the FBI's Houston Division, confirms that he and special-agent-in-charge Brian Loader met with Khallid and his aides. He recalls they talked about alleged FBI surveillance of the group in Jasper last summer, where heavily armed Panthers and Muslims had protested the white supremacist dragging death of a black man, but denied they talked about an alleged plot to kill them.
But Khallid and Quannel insist that they raised the issue in a meeting that included Moss, Loader, and special agent Efrain V. Martinez. They say Loader told them "if we know about an assassination plot, we let the intended target or targets know." They say he argued that "there are other times when you don't let them know and times when you tell them that no assassination plot exists, and you foment discord and exacerbate tensions, blow them out of proportion and create a deadly climate of mistrust."
Khallid says that, after the meeting, Moss contacted Robert Muhammad, the chief minister at Mosque Number 45. Minister Robert then reached out to Quannel and arranged a conference call with Don Muhammad, national consultant to the NOI's ministers and one of Farrakhan's trusted aides. Quannel says he mentioned that Moss gave the impression he had "a direct line of communication" with Minister Robert. (The Minister, according to Quannel, denied there was a plot, but refused to answer Voice questions.)