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Friends puzzled by store owner's arrest

Rochester, N.Y. -- The allegation that Mufid Elfgeeh, a Rochester business owner, was plotting a terrorist attack that involved a plan to shoot American soldiers returning home from war, shocked people who know him.

"When I was reading and checking the news, I was like, 'You got to be kidding me about what happened,'" said Kahlad Shaibi, who knows Elfgeeh. "I mean, you never know."

Shaibi said he met Elfgeeh in 2010, when the two men, both born in Yemen, attended the same mosque and briefly did business together.

A naturalized U.S. citizen, Elfgeeh, 30, owned MoJoe's Famous Pizza and Chicken on North Clinton Avenue.

"I go to see him sometimes at the store," Shaibi said. "He explained to me that business is really slow, he wants to sell the business and get out of here. That's about it."

It was during that time, in late 2012, not long before the FBI began its investigation, that Shaibi said Elfgeeh started to distance himself from the city's Islamic community.

"After I went and seen him a couple of times, he was totally different," Shaibi said. "He changed."

Elfgeeh was different, but Shaibi said he never thought he was dangerous.

"I mean I never noticed anything," Shaibi said. "There were no suspicious moves or anything like that gave me doubt about him."

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, posts to social media sites prompted the investigation that began last year.

"It was in the Twitter account among other things where Mr. Elfgeeh expressed his support for Al-Qaeda and wanting to assist them in a number of different ways," U.S. Attorney William Hochul Jr. said at a press conference Monday.

Shaibi said he has no idea what may have motivated Elfgeeh to make those threats.

"I don't know," Shaibi said. "I mean, to say, 'I'm going to kill this person' ... that's kind of stupid. I mean, I feel kind of sorry for what he put himself through."

It was the threats and the purchase of two firearms, two silencers and ammunition that led to Elfgeeh's arrest. For about $1,000, Elfgeeh purchased those weapons from an FBI informant in the Walmart parking lot off Hudson Avenue Saturday.

"It becomes more serious when you have statements like the statements that Mr. Elfgeeh was making that are taken together with action," Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett Harvey said. "We have both of those things in this case, and that's when it gets to the point we bring in the federal justice system."

Charged with two counts of receiving and possessing an unregistered firearm silencer, Elfgeeh is facing up to 20 years in jail and/or a $250,000 fine. He is being held without bond at the federal facility in Batavia.

"It's kind of crazy," Shaibi said. "His life is ended. If he is really guilty, his life is done, bye-bye."

The investigation is ongoing. Elfgeeh could be hit with more charges, but the U.S. Attorney's Office would not comment on what those charges could be or if anyone else was involved.

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Washington Times