Citizen Staff Writer
Nearly two decades of mystery and intrigue may be drawing to a close with the arrest of a man suspected of killing a local imam.
Calgary Police Services in Canada arrested Glen Cusford Francis, a 52-year-old citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, on Tuesday on suspicion of killing 55-year-old Rashad Khalifa, according to a news release issued by the Tucson Police Department.
On Jan. 31, 1990, Khalifa was found stabbed to death in the kitchen of the Masjid of Tucson, the mosque where he worked. The mosque is at East Sixth Street and North Euclid Avenue.
Khalifa had gained international attention for his computer analysis of the Koran and his claims that two verses were written by Satan, not God.
Police say Khalifa had been receiving death threats in the months leading up to his killing because of his controversial interpretation, and authorities in Colorado uncovered a plot to kill him.
According to Tucson Citizen archives, seven people were indicted in Colorado on charges of conspiracy to kill Khalifa.
All seven were believed to be members of FUQRA, a Muslim extremist group that had been tied to terrorist activities.
The plot was uncovered by police in Colorado Springs when they found explosives in a locker in 1989 while investigating a burglary.
Notes on how to kill Khalifa, diagrams and photos of the mosque, as well as planned escape routes, were found by detectives, archives show.
Authorities told Khalifa of the plot but four months later he was found dead in Tucson.
At least six of the seven men were convicted of charges related to the conspiracy.
The seventh, Edward Flinton, a citizen of Pakistan, fled before being arrested in 1996, according to Citizen archives.
It is not clear if Flinton was convicted and none of the men is believed to have actually stabbed Khalifa.
TPD spokesman Sgt. Fabian Pacheco said he was unaware of the Colorado arrests but would speak to homicide detectives about it.
Investigators in Tucson learned that a man calling himself Benjamin Phillips arrived at the mosque in January 1990 to study Islam under Khalifa, the TPD news release said.
It said local detectives used information obtained from family members in Georgia and in Canada, along with fingerprints found in Phillips’ Tucson apartment, to confirm that Phillips and Francis were the same man.
Francis was not seen in Tucson following the slaying and authorities learned that he fled the country the following year before returning in 1994, the news release said.
The FBI interviewed Francis in 1994 in Texas where he went by the name of Joseph Wall and denied ever being in Tucson, the news release said.
TPD’s cold case unit began working on the case in 2006 and in December last year, was able to use DNA testing on forensic evidence from the crime scene to tie Francis to the killing, the news release said.
TPD investigators worked with the Pima County Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Marshals Service and Canadian authorities to obtain a provisional arrest warrant for first-degree murder with a $1 million bond for Francis.
Man arrested in ’90 slaying of controversial religious leader at local mosque