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Pakistani cab driver charged in Chicago with Al Qaeda links

world Updated: Mar 27, 2010 11:12 IST

IANS
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A Pakistani American taxi driver with alleged ties to Ilyas Kashmiri, a terrorist leader in Pakistan linked with Mumbai terror suspects David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana, has been charged with supporting Al Qaeda.

Raja Lahrasib Khan, 56, who became a naturalised US citizen in 1988, was arrested here Friday morning in his cab and charged with attempting to send money to Al Qaeda. Authorities allege Khan also discussed attacking a stadium in the United States this summer but said there was no imminent danger.

Federal authorities said Khan's arrest is not tied to the Mumbai terror plot case involving Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives Headley and Rana. Headley recently pleaded guilty and is providing information to authorities about his dealings with alleged militant leaders in Pakistan.

Kashmiri, identified as the leader of Harkat-Ul-Jihadi Islamiya (HUJI), a terrorist group based in Pakistan and Kashmir with links to Al Qaeda, was indicted in January 2010 along with Headley and Rana for their alleged roles in a conspiracy to attack a Danish newspaper.

"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," US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said in a statement.

At one point, Khan allegedly said to an associate that bags containing remote-controlled bombs could be put in several locations and then "boom, boom, boom, boom," according to court records. Among them allegedly is Ilyas Kashmiri, whom authorities say Khan claimed to know for 15 years.

Authorities allege Khan "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,'" according to the 35-page complaint.

On Nov 23, 2009, Khan allegedly sent a money transfer of $950 from a currency exchange in 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 Rs. 25,000 to "Lala," a nickname Khan uses to refer to Kashmiri.

Khan also told an undercover agent that he had met Kashmiri most recently in 2008 in Miran Shah in northwest Pakistan.

Earlier this month, the charging document alleged, Khan and an associate had a discussion during which they appeared to talk about attacking a stadium in the US in "August". 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 from the agent after he confirmed that Kashmiri was working with Al Qaeda.

Khan also assured that Kashmiri would use the undercover agent's funds to purchase weapons and added that he had provided the HUJI chief with money in the past, including in December 2009.

Khan also discussed the possibility of having his son transport the money from the US to England where Khan would rendezvous with his son, retrieve the money, and deliver it to Kashmiri in Pakistan.