Huffpost Chicago

Chicago Taxi Driver Accused Of Supporting Al-Qaida

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CHICAGO — Federal prosecutors charged a Chicago cab driver on Friday with attempting to provide funds for explosives to al-Qaida and discussing a possible bomb attack on an unspecified stadium in the United States this summer.

Raja Lahrasib Khan, 56, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Pakistani origin, was charged with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

Khan spoke with another man identified in the complaint only as Individual B on March 11 and appeared to be talking about an attack on an unspecified stadium within the United States, according to the complaint.

Khan allegedly said bags containing remote controlled bombs could be placed within the stadium and then, "boom, boom, boom, boom," prosecutors said.

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.

He was represented at the initial appearance by Daniel P. McLoughlin, a staff attorney with the federal defender program. McLoughlin declined to comment when approached by reporters after the hearing but told Soat Brown that he would probably withdraw from the case and another attorney would be appointed to defend Khan.

U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald said in the statement that there was no imminent danger to the Chicago area but "these charges, once again, affirm that law enforcement must remain constantly vigilant to guard against domestic support of foreign terrorist organizations."

The complaint said that Khan claimed while speaking with an undercover agent to be acquainted with Ilyas Kashmiri, a terrorist leader believed to be based in the tribal areas of western Pakistan who is currently charged in a federal indictment in Chicago with planning a terrorist attack in Denmark.

Prosecutors said the investigation that led to Khan's arrest was unrelated to a separate investigation that produced charges against an American citizen, David Coleman Headley, and a Canadian businessman living in Chicago, Tahawwur Rana, in the November 2008 terrorist attacks that left 166 people dead in the Indian city of Mumbai.

Kashmiri is charged in that indictment along with Headley and Rana in connection with a planned attack on the Danish newspaper that published cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in 2005 that led to protests in much of the Muslim world.

Headley pleaded guilty last week to the charges. Rana has pleaded not guilty to conspiring to provide material support to terrorists in Denmark and India.

According to the complaint, Khan claimed to have known Kashmiri for 15 years and said he came to believe at some point that Kashmiri was receiving orders from Osama bin Laden. Prosecutors have said that Kashmiri maintains close ties with at least one al-Qaida leader.

The complaint said that Khan sent $950 from a currency exchange in Chicago to "Lala," a name meaning older brother and which he used in speaking of Kashmiri. It said the money was sent after Kashmiri indicated to Khan that he needed cash to buy explosives.

On March 17, Khan accepted $1,000 from the undercover agent and assured him that the money would be used to purchase weapons and possibly other supplies, the complaint said.

It said that at that time Khan discussed the possibility of sending the money to England with his son. Under the plan, he would meet his son in England, retrieve the money and proceed to Pakistan to deliver it to Kashmiri, they said.

According to the complaint, FBI agents came into contact with Khan's son at O'Hare International Airport on March 23 and that he was traveling to England with some of the money. The son was not charged with any wrongdoing.

(This version corrects charges to attempting to provide material support reflecting the charges that were read in court.)