Pakistani-American who had denied any contacts with terror groups arrested
Washington, May 4: A 35-year-old Pakistani-American national has been arrested by the FBI on his arrival from Pakistan for being in contact with two UN-proscribed terror groups the Islamic State and the JeM. Waqar Ul-Hassan, a naturalised US citizen who moved to America at the age of 15, was arrested at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina on Tuesday.
Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar was designated as a global terrorist by the UN on May 1. Hassan was arrested on two counts of making false statements in 2015 about his contacts with terrorist groups. If convicted, he faces up to eight years of imprisonment. According to court documents, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2014 received information that he was in contact with terrorist organisations.
During an interview with the FBI, he denied having any contacts with the terrorist groups or helping them. Later in November 2015, Hassan during another interview with the FBI admitted that he had lied and was in contact with two terrorist groups -- the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) and JeM. He acknowledged being untruthful in previous FBI interviews regarding his knowledge of persons associated with foreign terrorist organisations.
The FBI said Hassan admitted to extensive contacts with a JeM recruiter, who he identified by name. He also admitted to exchanging phone numbers with the recruiter and having several conversations about extremism with him. Hassan further admitted he traveled to - and stayed with - JeM extremists for two or three days in 2014, traveled in Pakistan in 2013 and 2014 to collect money and food for JeM extremists, and passed out recruiting newspapers for JeM in Pakistan in 2014, the FBI said. Hassan admitted that he had not been truthful because he knew JeM was a terrorist group.
"Between 2013 and 2014 I traveled... around the city of Gujrat (in Pakistan) and surrounding area collecting money and food for Jaish Mujahiden two or three times. In 2014, while staying with Jaish Mujahideen they told me about an attack on Indian soldier they conducted the previous year. They showed me a news video of the attack," Hassan said in a written statement to the FBI, according to court documents.
"I also past out a newspaper that Jaish Mujahiden uses to recruit people and collect money. I lied because I was scared of getting in trouble because I participated in collecting money, food and passing out the newspaper for Jaish Mujahadin which is a terrorist group but they also help the poor in Pakistan," he said.
Hassan was born on February 10, 1984 in Uttam Gujrat, Pakistan. He moved with his family to Brooklyn, New York in 1999 at the age of fifteen. He became a naturalised United States citizen in 2002, but retained citizenship in Pakistan. Hassan told investigators that he was in contact with ISIS as well.
The complaint said because he was angry about what was happening to Muslims around the world, he was serious about sending USD 175 to Jihadists in Syria. Hassan said that he did not send the money because he did not have a way to get the money there.