The son of a Miami mosque leader arrested Saturday on charges of funding terrorism has denied allegations against his father and two brothers.
“None of my family supports the Taliban,” Ikram Khan, a Miami taxi driver, told the Miami Herald. “We support this country.”
Hafiz Muhammed Sher Ali Khan, 76 and his two sons Irfam Khan, 37 and Izhar Khan, 24, are accused of providing nearly $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban.
Hafiz Khan, who was imam at Miami's oldest mosque until suspended indefinitely after his arrest, is also alleged to run a school in Pakistan that trains children as militants and shelters Taliban members.
All three of the men are U.S. citizens. Hafiz Khan was the imam of Miami Mosque -- also known as Flagler Mosque -- in West Miami for about 14 years, and his younger son is the imam at Jamaat Al-Mu’mineen Mosque in Margate.
FBI officers surrounded the Flagler Mosque Saturday just after 6 a.m., took off their shoes to enter, and waited until morning prayers were finished before taking a sickly Hafiz Khan into custody.
Those who worshipped with the family professed shock at their arrests.
"[Izhar Khan] didn't seem...as if he would do such kind of thing by supporting the Taliban," said Jaffer Shirazi, who prays daily at the mosque in Margate. "I never thought he would do a thing like that because he was just like another Muslim imam and everybody respected him."
Neither mosque is suspected of any wrongdoing, federal officials say.
“Let me be clear that this is not an indictment against a particular community or religion,” wrote U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer. “Radical extremists know no boundaries; they come in all shapes and sizes and are not limited by religion, age or geography.”
Nezar Hamze of the local Council on American-Islamic Relations urged anyone who is angry or concerned to call CAIR and engage in a peaceful discussion.
"We prefer to get heated phone calls with frustration [rather than] attacks on innocent men, women and places of worship," he said.
Hafiz Khan's daughter and grandson were among three others also indicted, but all three are at large in Pakistan. Each charge of the four-count indictment carries a 15-year sentence if convicted.
According to the indictment, the Khans both wired money directly and deposited money into a bank account accessed by their alleged co-conspirators in Pakistan.
Records also state that over the course of multiple phone calls, Hafiz Khan called for attacks on the Pakistani Assembly, asked his sons to collect donated money approved for the Taliban, discussed ways to shoot Pakistani officials, called for some officials to be killed in bombings, inquired as to whether the Taliban had received his funds, and discussed how to disguise payments meant for the purchase of firearms.
“Despite being an Imam, or spiritual leader, Hafiz Khan was by no means a man of peace,’’ Ferrer wrote.
The Pakistani Taliban, who have ties to both Al Queda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, declared responsibility for explosions that killed 87 people on Friday.
Declared a terrorist organization by the U.S. in September 2010, they have also been linked to the 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt.
“We will not allow this country to be used as a base for funding and recruiting terrorists,” said John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Miami Office. “I remind everyone that the Muslim and Arab-American members of our community should never be judged by the illegal activities of a few.”