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A Chicago taxi driver who claims to be acquainted with an alleged terrorist leader in Pakistan was arrested Friday on federal charges of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
The U.S. Attorney's office alleges Raja Lahrasib Khan, a native of Pakistan who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1988, attempted to provide funds overseas to al Qaeda and discussed attacking a stadium in the United States this summer.
Federal officials stressed there was no imminent domestic danger, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney's office.
Khan, 56, lives on the eighth floor of an apartment building in the Uptown neighborhood and was arrested in his cab at about 8 a.m. Friday. He's been charged with two counts of providing material support to terrorism, according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Chicago and unsealed following his arrest. The investigation is continuing.
The balding, bearded Khan, clad in a wrinkled nylon jacket, rumpled pants and sneakers, appeared briefly before U.S. Magistrate
Geraldine Soat Brown on Friday afternoon. She ordered him held in the Metropolitan Correctional Center pending a status hearing set for Tuesday.
According to a 35-page complaint affidavit, by at least 2008, Khan, who claims to have known Ilyas Kashmiri for 15 years, learned that Kashmiri was working with al Qaeda, and 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 him he needed money, in any amount, to purchase materials from the "black market."
The complaint identifies Kashmiri as the leader in Kashmir of Harakat ul-Jihad-I-Islami, a Sunni extremist group located in Pakistan and Kashmir with links to al Qaeda. In a reported interview last October, Kashmiri purportedly said he had joined forces with al Qaeda.
In January 2010, Kashmiri, together with a former Pakistani military officer, and Chicagoans Tahawwur Hussain Rana and David Coleman 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 a Danish newspaper, the release said.
The investigation leading to Khan’s arrest was unrelated to that separate investigation.
The charges against Khan allege that on Nov. 23, 2009, he sent a money transfer of about $950 from a currency exchange on North LaSalle Street to Individual A in Pakistan. Khan later spoke with Individual A by phone 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 for Kashmiri, who he told the agent he had met most recently in 2008 in Miran Shah in Pakistan. Khan also told the agent that his phones were being monitored, and if Khan or the undercover agent were ever questioned about "Lala," they should claim to have been referring to Khan’s actual brother.
Just two weeks ago, on March 11, Khan and "Individual B" allegedly had a discussion during which they appeared to talk about attacking a stadium in "August," the complaint alleges. Among other things, Khan described that bags containing remote controlled bombs could be placed in several different locations, and then "boom, boom, boom, boom."
He further said he would ask Kashmiri to teach him how to conduct such an attack, the complaint alleges. However, there are no allegations that Khan knew Kashmiri’s current whereabouts or had yet discussed his stadium plan.
On March 17, after agreeing to deliver to Kashmiri any funds that the undercover agent wanted to provide, Khan allegedly accepted $1,000 from the agent. The complaint states Khan accepted these funds after having had prior conversations with the 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 O’Hare came into contact with Khan’s son, who was traveling to England. During this contact, agents discovered Khan’s son possessed seven of the ten $100 bills that the agent had given to Khan, according to the affidavit.
Upon conviction, 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, the release said