Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Did Black Muslims kidnap a liquor store owner?

Guy Ashley:

The owner of an Oakland liquor store destroyed by an arson fire Monday morning was kidnapped shortly before the fire and held for several hours against his will, police said.

Tony Hamdan, owner of New York Market in West Oakland, was found Monday afternoon in the trunk of a car in an El Cerrito parking lot, police said. Investigators provided no other details on the kidnapping this morning.

Police continue to probe the early morning fire, which gutted the corner liquor store on Market Street, and say they still have no established links between the blaze and two incidents last week in which the market and another store nearby were trashed by vandals.

Both the New York Market and San Pablo Market and Liquor, several blocks away, were targeted late Wednesday by a group of about 10 vandals who rampaged through the stores wielding pipes.

Glass cooler doors were smashed at both stores, which are owned by Muslims of Middle Eastern descent, and dozens of liquor bottles were knocked from store shelves, causing an estimated $15,000 damage in each store.

Police have been looking to see if the incidents are tied to Black Muslim groups because surveillance video showed the vandals were wearing suits, white shirts and bow ties, attire commonly associated with such groups. Black Muslims commonly forbid the consumption of alcohol.

Police said Monday they have concluded that the vandals were not affiliated with the Nation of Islam, the 75-year-old black religious group led by Minister Louis Farrakhan.

Deputy police Chief Howard Jordan said Monday that police are investigating the possibility that people affiliated with another Black Muslim group could be responsible.

One such group prominent in West Oakland is that affiliated with the late Yusuf Bey, founder of the Your Black Muslim Bakery chain. The group's male followers, including men who sell bean pies and other baked goods on Oakland streets, also wear suits and bow ties.

In 1993, employees of a Bey-owned laundry in North Richmond were implicated in the vandalism of a store in North Richmond, in which food and liquor were knocked off store shelves. One of the laundry employees was arrested in the ransacking, which caused about $1,500 in damage.

In an interview at the time, Bey said his group was angered by gatherings of people outside the North Richmond store who apparently sold drugs. Bey died of colon cancer in 2003.

Problems with loitering and drugs have been associated with liquor stores in Oakland, leading to the shutdown of two stores in the West Oakland areas. But City Councilwoman Nancy Nadel said Monday that the two stores targeted this week were not known as hot spots for loitering and drug activity.

A person who answered the telephone at the Your Black Muslim Bakery headquarters Monday declined comment on the liquor store incidents.

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