The US Department of Justice has charged six Pakistani Americans today with aiding the Pakistani Taliban. Three of those charged, including two imams at mosques in southern Florida, have been arrested, while three others are currently in Pakistan.
The six people have been identified as Hafiz Muhammed Sher Ali Khan; his two sons, Irfan and Izhar; his daughter Amina and her son Zeb; and another man known as Faisal Ali Rehman.
Hafiz and Izhar were arrested in Florida today, while Irfan was arrested in Los Angeles. Amina, Zeb, and Rehman are currently in Pakistan, beyond the reach of US officials.
Both Hafiz and Izhar are imams at mosques in southern Florida. Hafiz is the imam at the Miami Mosque, which is also known as the Flagler Mosque. Izhar is the imam at the Jamaat Al-Mu’mineen Mosque in Margate.
The six Pakistani Americans have been charged with “conspiring to provide, and providing, material support to a conspiracy to murder, maim and kidnap persons overseas, as well as conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, specifically, the Pakistani Taliban,” the Department of Justice said in a press release issued today. In addition to the conspiracy charges, Hafiz, Rehman, and Zeb have also been charged with “providing material support to the Pakistani Taliban.”
“The defendants sought to aid the Pakistani Taliban’s fight against the Pakistani government and its perceived allies, including the United States, by supporting acts of murder, kidnapping and maiming in Pakistan and elsewhere, in order to displace the lawful government of Pakistan and to establish strict Islamic law known as Sharia,” the statement continued.
The Department of justice singled out Hafiz for “founding and controlling” a madrassa, or religious school for Muslims, in the district of Swat in Pakistan. The madrassa has been used by the Pakistani Taliban to train child terrorists to kill US troops in Pakistan.
“Khan has allegedly used the madrassa to provide shelter and other support for the Pakistani Taliban and has sent children from his madrassa to learn to kill Americans in Afghanistan,” the statement said.
Both Hafiz and Irfan were recorded taking part in conversations that advocated violence against the Pakistani state and US troops in Afghanistan.
“On one occasion in July 2009, defendants [Hafiz] Khan and Irfan Khan participated in a recorded conversation in which Khan called for an attack on the Pakistani Assembly that would resemble the September 2008 suicide bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan,” the Justice statement said. “On another occasion in September 2010, Hafiz Khan participated in a conversation in which he stated that he would provide that individual with contact information for Pakistani Taliban militants in Karachi, and upon hearing that mujahideen in Afghanistan had killed seven American soldiers, declared his wish that God kill 50,000 more.”
The Department of Justice attempted to tiptoe around the fact that Hafiz and Izhar are Muslim imams at US mosques. At three different points in the announcement, Justice attempted to distance the arrests and actions from the wider Muslim community. Two Justice Department officials were directly quoted denying any links between the arrests and Islam.
“Let me be clear that this is not an indictment against a particular community or religion,” US Attorney Wifredo Ferrer stated.”Instead, today’s indictment charges six individuals for promoting terror and violence through their financial and other support of the Pakistani Taliban. Radical extremists know no boundaries; they come in all shapes and sizes and are not limited by religion, age or geography.”
“I remind everyone that the Muslim and Arab-American members of our community should never be judged by the illegal activities of a few,” John Gillies, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Miami Office, was quoted in the Justice press release.
Also, the Justice Department denied any connection between the mosques that Hafiz and Izhar ran and the actions of the accused.
“The indictment does not charge the mosques themselves with any wrongdoing, and the individual defendants are charged based on their provision of material support to terrorism, not on their religious beliefs or teachings,” the Justice statement said.
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