Two Pakistani brothers who live in South Florida have been arrested on charges they conspired to support terrorism, federal officials say.
Raees Alam Qazi, 20, and his sibling, Sheheryar Alam Qazi, 30, of Oakland Park, were taken into custody Thursday by the FBI, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, in Miami. Authorities said the case was not an FBI sting operation.
"Any potential threat posed by these two individuals has been disrupted,” U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer said in a statement.
A three-page federal indictment released Friday provided few details about the alleged plot. It was unclear whether the alleged conspirators had explosives or what the possible targets were.
Assistant Federal Public Defender Daryl Wilcox, who represented Raees Alam Qazi on Friday, declined to comment, saying he was not authorized to do so. Sheheryar Alam Qazi's attorney couldn't be reached for comment despite an email request and a phone message left at a listed number.
The brothers, both U.S. citizens, lived in an apartment complex several blocks west of Interstate 95 off West Oakland Park Boulevard, records show.
From last year to this month, they allegedly conspired to provide resources for the purpose of terrorism, including funding, lodging, communications equipment and transportation, said Annette Castillo, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
In addition, they allegedly conspired to use explosives against “persons and property within the United States,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
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The indictment said that one or both suspects were “traveling in and causing another to travel in interstate commerce in furtherance of the offense,” meaning out-of-state activity was part of the alleged conspiracy.
The brothers were charged with one count of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, which carries a maximum 15-year prison sentence, the indictment said. In addition, they were charged with one count of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, punishable by up to life in prison, the indictment said.
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Both brothers were held without bond at a Broward jail after they had their initial court appearances Friday morning, records show.
A pre-trial detention hearing has been scheduled in the brothers’ case for Dec. 7 in Fort Lauderdale federal court, Castillo said.
Castillo said she had no additional information beyond what the indictment stated.
A resume for Sheheryar Alam Qazi obtained by NBC 6 South Florida says that he worked at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino as a parking valet from 2009 to February 2011. He was also a manager for Dunkin' Donuts in Coconut Creek, the resume said.
South Florida has seen several high-profile terrorism cases, including the conviction of al-Qaida operative Jose Padilla and the convictions of five men accused of plotting to join forces with al-Qaida to destroy a landmark Chicago skyscraper and bomb FBI offices in several cities.
More recently, a Miami Muslim cleric and one of his sons are facing trial on charges they provided thousands of dollars in financial support to the Pakistani Taliban terrorism group.
Alex Acosta is now the dean of the Florida International University College of Law, but previously, as the U.S. attorney, he prosecuted Padilla on charges of supporting terrorism. He said the arrest of the Qazi brothers is part of a constant effort to head off trouble.
"So as soon as there is sufficient evidence from which a belief arises that a crime has been committed in cases like this, it should be prosecuted in order to protect the community," Acosta said.
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