Florida imams arrested over Taliban charges

Six people accused in US lawsuit of helping fund "murder, kidnapping and maiming" carried out by the Pakistani Taliban.

    The six were charged with helping the Taliban, which claimed responsibility for a recent attack in Pakistan [Reuters]

    US authorities have charged six people in Pakistan and the southeastern US state of Florida with helping to finance and support the Pakistani Taliban.

    US nationals Hafiz Muhammed Sher Ali Khan, 76, and his 24-year-old son, Izhar Khan, were arrested in South Florida on Saturday. Another son, Irfan Khan, 37, was detained in Los Angeles.

    The three were charged with "supporting acts of murder, kidnapping and maiming in Pakistan and elsewhere", according to an indictment announced jointly by the FBI and the US attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Wilfredo Ferrer.

    Hafiz Khan is an imam at the Miami Mosque, also known as the Flagler Mosque - while his son, Izhar Khan, is an imam at the Jamaat Al-Mu'mineen Mosque in Margate, Florida, the indictment said.

    The other three charged in the suit, Hafiz Khan's daughter Amina Khan, grandson Alam Zeb and Ali Rehman, are believed to live in Pakistan and remain at large.

    Indictment allegations

    The indictment alleges the Pakistan-born US residents raised and sent money to the Pakistani Taliban and wanted to target Pakistani government locations, including the parliament.

    Prosecutors said Hafiz Khan also supported the Pakistani Taliban through a madrassa, or traditional religious school, in Swat in Pakistan, that he used to provide shelter for armed fighters.

    He had "sent children from his madrassa to learn to kill Americans in Afghanistan", according to the indictment released by Ferrer's office in Miami.

    "Despite being an imam, or spiritual leader, Hafiz Khan was by no means a man of peace," Ferrer said in a statement.

    "Let me be clear that this is not an indictment against a particular community or religion. Instead, today's indictment charges six individuals for promoting terror and violence through their financial and other support of the Pakistani Taliban," Ferrer added.

    If convicted, each of those charged faces up to 15 years in prison for each count of the four-count indictment.

    The allegations come at a particularly sensitive time in US-Pakistan relations, as Pakistani lawmakers passed a resolution calling for an end to drone air strikes and an independent investigation into the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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