I-Team

Fire victim did time for terrorist ties

CREATED Jun. 21, 2012 - UPDATED: Jun. 21, 2012

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  • Steve Chamraz reports Video by wtmj.com

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MILWAUKEE- At the same time Milwaukee firefighters battled a five-alarm blaze Wednesday morning, a much smaller one was starting in Oak Creek.

Salah Sarsour believes the simultaneous fires are simply a freak occurrence.

"It's just coincidence," Sarsour said. "I mean, I believe this happened coincidentally."

Sarsour spoke to reporters about a block away from the burned-out and crumbled corner building owned by his brother Jamil.

The 120-year-old brick building at the corner of 12th and Vliet caught fire sometime before 9 a.m. Wednesday and was deemed a total loss.

Sometime around noon, the Oak Creek home caught fire.

That home is owned by another Sarsour brother.

Just a coincidence, Salah Sarsour insists -- though a coincidence that is raising eyebrows.

In 1998, store owner Jamil Sarsour was convicted in both U.S. and Israeli courts as a terrorist moneyman.

An Israeli police report detailed Sarsour's confession.

"I occasionally send money to organizations that may be connected to Hamas without me knowing it," the report quotes Sarsour.

For that crime, he served a prison sentence in Israel.

American authorities later accepted a guilty plea on an illegal money transfer charge and sentenced Sarsour to probation.

When questioned about whether anyone would want to target his family, Salah Sarsour again pointed to the fires as a coincidence.

"We have no enemies," Salah Sarsour said. "Things happened. Things happened the same day."

Salah Sarsour has also been active in anti-Israel causes.

A number of videos on YouTube show Sarsour leading Islamist rallies.

In the 1998 Israeli report, Jamil Sarsour mentioned his brother as the source of some of the money passed along to Hamas.

"The checks that my brother Salah gave me were from a bank in Milwaukee," Jamil told Israeli investigators.  "From the business account.  We didn't want to use personal checks... so the government shouldn't trace the checks back to us."

Salah Sarsour remains convinced that no one would want to target the family.