Three U.S. citizens were arrested Saturday on federal charges that they provided $50,000 and other material support to the Pakistani Taliban.
Hafiz Muhammed Sher Ali Khan, 76, imam at the Flagler Mosque in Miami, and one of his sons, Izhar Khan, 24, an imam at the Jamaat Al-Mu'mineen Mosque in Margate, Fla., were arrested after morning services in Florida. Another son, Irfan Khan, 37, was being held in a Los Angeles hotel.
The men, originally from Pakistan, are U.S. citizens. The four-count indictment doesn't charge the mosques with wrongdoing, according to a Justice Department statement.
Three other individuals also are named in the indictment and are at-large in Pakistan -- Ali Rehman, Alam Zeb and Amina Khan. Amina Khan is the daughter of Khan and her son, Alam Zeb, is Khan’s grandson. They are charged with handling the distribution of funds.
All six defendants named in the indictment are 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 indictment lists about $50,000 in transactions that were used to buy guns, support militants' families and promote the cause of the Pakistani Taliban, according to the indictment. In addition, the indictment alleges that defendant Hafiz Khan supported the Pakistani Taliban through a madrassa, or Islamic school, that he founded and controlled in the Swat region of 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 suspects are expected to make their first appearance in federal court on Monday in Miami and Los Angeles. If convicted, each faces a potential 15 years in prison for each count of the indictment, officials said.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said the investigation started because of the financial activity.
"But for law enforcement intervention, these defendants would have continued to transfer funds to Pakistan to finance the Pakistani Taliban, including its purchase of guns," he said.
The Pakistani Taliban is a branch of the terrorist group that began in Afghanistan. It has been involved in, or claimed responsibility for, numerous attacks against U.S. interests, including a December 2009 suicide attack on a U.S. military base in Khost, Afghanistan, along the border with Pakistan, which killed seven Americans, an April 2010 suicide bombing against the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan, which killed six Pakistani citizens and the attempt by Faisal Shahzad to detonate an explosive device in New York City’s Times Square on May 1, 2010.
Most recently, on Friday, the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the suicide attacks that killed at least 80 people at a military training facility in northwestern Pakistan.