CHICAGO — A Chicago man who claims to be acquainted with an alleged terrorist leader in Pakistan was arrested today on federal charges of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization for allegedly attempting to provide funds overseas to al Qaeda, federal law enforcement officials announced. Although the defendant, Raja Lahrasib Khan, a Chicago taxi driver and native of Pakistan who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1988, allegedly discussed attacking a stadium in the United States this summer, there was no imminent domestic danger, officials said.
The investigation leading to Khan’s arrest is unrelated to a separate investigation that resulted in federal terrorism charges against Chicagoans Tahawwur Hussain Rana and David Coleman Headley in connection with the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai and a plot to attack targets in Denmark, the officials added.
Khan, 56, of the city’s north side, was charged with two counts of providing material support to terrorism in a criminal complaint that was filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Chicago and unsealed today following his arrest, announced Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The investigation is continuing, they said.
Khan was arrested this morning while working in downtown Chicago without incident by the Chicago FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. He was scheduled to appear at 3:30 p.m. today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Geraldine Soat Brown in Federal Court in Chicago.
"While there was no imminent danger in the Chicago area or elsewhere, these charges, once again, affirm that law enforcement must remain constantly vigilant to guard against domestic support of foreign terrorist organizations. I am deeply grateful to the FBI agents and other members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force for their extremely hard work on this matter," said Mr. Fitzgerald.
Mr. Grant said: "Over the past six months, FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Forces across the country have disrupted plots, charged and apprehended a number of individuals and secured significant intelligence, which has been of benefit here and to our allies overseas. Notable as most of these successes have been, it also illustrates the reality of the environment we face today, along with the critical responsibility domestic law enforcement agencies and intelligence services have in protecting the public from the violent designs of others. It is a complex threat that we face and we are pleased with the results today," he added.
"Today’s arrest and charges are the result of an outstanding cooperative law enforcement and intelligence effort and underscore the domestic and international aspects of the terror threat we face," said David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.
According to a 35-page complaint affidavit, by at least 2008, Khan, who claims to have known Ilyas Kashmiri for approximately 15 years, learned that Kashmiri was working with al Qaeda, and that Kashmiri was purportedly receiving orders from al Qaeda’s leader, Osama bin Laden. According to Khan, during his meeting or meetings with Kashmiri, among other things, Khan learned that Kashmiri wanted to train operatives to conduct attacks in the United States; Kashmiri showed Khan a video depicting the detonation of an improvised explosive device; and Kashmiri told Khan that he needed money, in any amount, to be able to purchase materials from the "black market."
The complaint identifies Kashmiri as the leader in Kashmir of Harakat ul-Jihad-I-Islami (HUJI), a Sunni extremist group located in Pakistan and Kashmir with links to al Qaeda. In a reported interview last October, Kashmiri purportedly said that he had joined forces with al Qaeda. In January 2010, Kashmiri, together with a former Pakistani military officer, Rana and Headley, were indicted in Chicago for their alleged roles in a conspiracy to murder and maim persons in a planned attack against the facilities and employees of the Danish newspaper Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten, in Denmark, as retribution for the publication of cartoons that depicted the Prophet Mohammed.
The charges against Khan allege that on Nov. 23, 2009, he sent a money transfer of approximately $950 from a currency exchange located on North LaSalle Street in Chicago to Individual A, who was in either Mirpur or Bhimber, in Pakistan. Khan later spoke with Individual A by telephone and instructed him to give "Lala" 25,000 Pakistani rupees (approximately $300) of the money he had sent. According to the affidavit, Khan told an undercover agent that "Lala," which means "older brother" in Urdu, is a nickname Khan uses to refer to Kashmiri, who he told the agent he had met most recently in 2008 in Miran Shah in northwest Pakistan. Khan also told the agent that Khan believed that his telephones were being monitored, and if Khan or the undercover agent were ever questioned about their discussions regarding "Lala," they should claim to have been referring to Khan’s actual older brother.
Just two weeks ago, on March 11, Khan and an associate, identified as "Individual B," allegedly had a discussion during which they appeared to talk about attacking a stadium in the United States in "August." Among other things, Khan described that bags containing remote controlled bombs could be placed in several different locations, and then "boom, boom, boom, boom." Khan further said that he would ask "Lala" [Kashmiri] to teach him how to conduct such an attack, the complaint alleges. However, there are no allegations that Khan either knew Kashmiri’s current whereabouts or had yet discussed his stadium plan with him.
On March 17, after agreeing to personally deliver to Kashmiri any funds that the undercover agent wanted to provide, Khan allegedly accepted $1,000 (ten $100 bills) from the agent. The complaint states that Khan accepted these funds after having had prior conversations with the undercover agent in which: Khan confirmed that Kashmiri was working with al Qaeda; Khan assured that Kashmiri would use the undercover agent’s funds to purchase weapons and, possibly, other supplies; Khan assured that he had provided Kashmiri with money in the past, including in approximately December 2009; and Khan discussed the possibility of having his son transport the money from the United States to England, where Khan would rendevous with his son, retrieve the money, and deliver it to Kashmiri in Pakistan.
On March 23, government agents at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport came into contact with Khan’s son, who was traveling to England. During this contact, agents discovered that Khan’s son possessed seven of the ten $100 bills that the undercover agent had given to Khan, according to the affidavit.
Each count of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted, the court is required to impose a reasonable sentence under the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.
The ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Chicago FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, with particular assistance from the Chicago Police Department, the Illinois State Police, and the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher Veatch and Steven Dollear, of the Northern District of Illinois, with assistance from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
The public is reminded that a criminal complaint contains mere allegations that are not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.