By JO ANN HUSTIS
KINSMAN, Ill. — More than three years after 40 law enforcement agents raided an Islamic meat slaughterhouse in their tiny rural town, Kinsman residents may have already put the past behind them, though two terrorists arrested in connection with the incident were just sentenced in federal court last month.
A woman who did not wish to give her name said she has “not heard one thing” about the sentencing of Tahawwur Hussain Rana, former owner of the local Middle Eastern meat packing plant, and his co-conspirator, David Headley, (formerly Daood Gilani,) both of Chicago, in federal court.
Rana was given a 14-year sentence on Jan. 16 and Headley, 35 years on Jan. 24 for conspiracy in terrorist schemes in Denmark and Mumbai, India. (See related article.) “I’ve not heard anyone mention it,” the woman said. “They might talk about it at the dinner table.”
The day of Headley’s sentencing, few in the town of 90-some residents would comment on the Oct. 18, 2009, FBI raid on the slaughterhouse, then known as First World Management. Several residents spoke of the incident after the arrest of Rana and Headley. Then-Grundy County sheriff, now the late Terry Marketti, noted the day after the raid that it was part of an ongoing federal criminal investigation that involved several law enforcement departments and the USDA. “Basically, all the FBI can say is it’s a very sensitive criminal investigation that’s ongoing,” he said. “That’s where we have to leave it.”
Marketti also said there was no imminent danger to the residents of Grundy County, especially in the southwestern part of the county where Kinsman is located. The FBI also noted there was no danger to Grundy County, nor the general Chicagoland area. One area resident wrote the week after the raid that Kinsman is so small, “other than its two taverns that were reduced to one several years back, its Catholic Church, its meat locker and its railroad tracks, there is nothing in Kinsman other than a few houses.” The 2010 census listed 98 residents.
Kinsman resident Pat Hardy worked both full- and part-time at the packing plant for years. In the two weeks prior to the raid, she put in several hours at the plant. “I don’t know what they’re looking for,” she said the day after the raid. “I’ve seen nothing unusual, out of place, or what they’d be looking for.”
Hardy said she was not allowed on the premises during the incident, but saw workers there in handcuffs. “Then they were all cleared,” she said. “I drove past, but saw nothing else. All I saw was people in handcuffs and maybe FBI guys who all had guns, and there was a lot of them.”
“Peanut” Austino was bartender-custodian at a small tavern about three blocks west of the packing plant. Austino said he never saw Rana, who purchased the slaughterhouse in about 2005. One slaughterhouse employee did come to the tavern after the raid, though, he said.
“He had a wife and two kids, and he didn’t know what to say. I could see in his eyes he was about ready to cry. He was here trying to make a living for his family back in Africa,” Austino said.
The local economy was little touched by the incident because no Kinsman residents worked at the plant, Austino noted. “When (former owner William) Rodosky owned it, a lot of us worked there,” he added.
A former part-time local employee regarded Rana as innocent until proven otherwise. “I didn’t think he was that type of man,” she said, but did not give her name. “He seemed to be a fair man, like every other boss. No, he didn’t know what he was doing – they were learning as they went, and it took them a while.”
She had thought Rana ran a legitimate operation in Kinsman, and was surprised at the raid.
Resident Norman Foster said the incident was upsetting in that no one was aware of what was going on until the FBI announced the arrest of Rana and Headley.
“There are terrorists all over,” he said. “It bothers me, but I don’t know what I’m going to do about it. You let them into this country, you don’t know what they’re going to do.”
“For an incident of this kind to happen in a community of about 100 people was a little scary,” resident Paula Sheedy added. “I’m sure glad they’re being watched and our government’s all over it. People thought it was overkill, but I think it was great they’re on top of it.”
Sheedy’s home was 1 1/2 blocks from the packing plant, where religious rites were held twice yearly. She said the participants dressed in traditional garb, and the event resembled a large family picnic.
“I got a phone call today from some friends,” she noted. “I said, ‘They’re looking for (Osama) bin Laden in Afghanistan, but we’ve got him right here in Kinsman – a small little town that nobody gives two squats about, and then to have this happen.”
Two men from neighboring towns were charged with punching and kicking Faud Nafie of Kinsman after leaving the tavern just before 1 a.m. on Nov. 22, 2009. Nafie lived in a trailer at the meat packing plant, and received head and facial injuries in the attack.
Marketti said one of the two called Nafie a racial slur. The man also told sheriff’s deputies he was “defending himself and his country from terrorists and (racial slur deleted),” Marketti said.
Part of the fear reflected by the residents was based on Kinsman’s nearness to three nuclear electrical generating stations – La Salle Station 10 miles west in Brookfield Township, Dresden Station 15 miles east at Morris and Braidwood Station 20 miles east at Braceville.
Though the meat packing plant is no longer in operation, one resident said on Jan. 24 a new business known as Echo Trans World, Inc. was occupying the building. The person who answered the phone at the building indicated the company was not in business at the time.