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Sunday, May 26, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Terror Charges Filed Against Texan

BROOKLYN (CN) - A Texas man went to Pakistan to train with al-Qaida to kill American soldiers in the Middle East, the federal government claims in a newly unsealed complaint.

Muhanad Mahmoud Al Farekh was arrested in Pakistan and secretly flown to the United States. He was charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists in a sealed complaint filed in early January. It was unsealed Thursday.

Farekh was deported from Pakistan to the United States before he could carry out his plans, the government said.

Farekh, Ferid Imam and an unnamed alleged co-conspirator left Canada for Pakistan in 2007 to fight American forces, according to the complaint and affidavit in support of application for an arrest warrant.

The men bought round-trip tickets so as to not arouse suspicion, and did not tell their families of their plans, authorities said.

In September 2008, Imam provided weapons and military training at an al-Qaida training camp in Pakistan to three men - Najibullah Zazi, Zarein Ahmedzay and Adis Medunjanin - with the intent of blowing up New York City's subway system.

Zazi and Ahmedzay have pleaded guilty in a cooperation agreement and await sentencing. Medunjanin was convicted and sentenced to life in 2012.

Imam also was indicted for his role.

"Today's arrest demonstrates that there is no escape from the long reach of our law for American citizens who seek to do harm to our country on behalf of violent terrorist," said U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, who is awaiting action from the Senate on whether it will approve her nomination to become the first black female attorney general.

Farekh faces 15 years if convicted.

According to the complaint, Farekh planned to leave from Winnipeg, where he and three informants were students at the University of Manitoba. He wanted to go to Pakistan's Federally Administrated Tribal Areas to fight the United States.

A confidential witness told the FBI that Farekh frequently watched videos encouraging violent jihad by now-deceased al-Qaida leader Anwar al-Awlaki.

The FBI says al-Awlaki's lectures inspired several terrorist attacks, including the 2005 London subway bombings, the 2006 plot to detonate truck bombs in Ontario, the 2010 Times Square bombing and the 2012 plan to blow up the New York Federal Reserve.

Awlaki, a dual citizen of the United States and Yemen, was a key figure in al-Qaida of the Arabian Peninsula. He is believed to have been killed in Yemen in September 2011.

Farekh and three other alleged co-conspirators were overheard making statements that jihad was a necessity, and making comments such as, "God bless their souls ... in apparent reference to the souls of jihadist fighters and martyrs," according to the complaint.

They also called Osama bin Laden sheikh, "an Arabic honorific by which religious leaders and scholars are referred," the government says.

Farekh and the cooperating witnesses bought combat boots the night before their flight to Pakistan, then disappeared without telling their families of their whereabouts, a customary practice, authorities say.

"This is because the individuals are often worried that their family members will try to block their ability to leave once they learn of the individuals' intent to engage in violent jihad," an FBI agent said in the affidavit.

"In addition, many individuals who travel intending to martyr themselves during their jihad seek to avoid the emotional farewells that would ensue if the individuals informed their family members that they were planning to engage in suicide operations and never see their family again."

Farekh went to Karachi Pakistan in 2007 on a round-trip ticket - the second leg of which was never used.

"The purchase of a round-trip ticket - despite the fact that the purchasers do not in fact intend to return to their home countries - is intended to appear less suspicious to border control officers," officials said.

Jihadists typically fly to Karachi to avoid suspicion even though Peshawar is the city in Pakistan closest to the Tribal Areas.

The two confidential informants who went with Farekh were sent back to New York to bomb the subway system.

Informants said al-Qaida "specifically recruited" Westerners, "regardless of their ethnicity," to take advantage of the lack of travel restrictions and the fact that they were less likely to arouse scrutiny.

Although Farekh was fluent in Arabic, the informants told authorities that recruits are often provided with translators and taught the Arabic names of certain weapons.

The three cooperating witnesses say they went through three weeks of weapons training. None of their plans were carried out.

Farekh is the latest of several terrorists to move through the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse in recent months.

Also Thursday, a complaint was unsealed showing that two female roommates from Queens, Noelle Valentzas and Asia Siddiqui, were arrested for planning to build a bomb and fight for ISIS on American soil.

Last month, three men were collared before two of them were able to fly out of the New York City to join ISIS.

Also in March, Pakistani national Abid Naseer, 28, who defended himself during his federal trial, was convicted of planning to bomb a busy England pedestrian mall as part of an international terrorist plot.

In January, the United States unsealed charges against a pair of Yemeni nationals who conspired to join al-Qaida.

That complaint, first filed in April 2009, says Saddiq Al-Abbadi and Ali Alivi attacked U.S. forces in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2007.

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