PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A high school honors student from Maryland helped the American terror suspect dubbed “Jihad Jane” plot to kill a Swedish artist and used the Internet to raise money and recruits for overseas terrorists, federal prosecutors charged in an indictment Thursday.
Mohammad Hassan Khalid, a legal immigrant from Pakistan, had been the rare juvenile in federal custody until he turned 18 last month. The FBI arrested him July 6 at his family’s home in Ellicott City, near Baltimore. He was charged Thursday with material support of terrorism.
According to the indictment, Khalid tried to recruit men to wage jihad, or a violent holy war, in Europe and South Asia, and women who had passports to travel through Europe. He had met Colleen LaRose, who had dubbed herself “Jihad Jane” in YouTube videos, in an online chat room when he was about 15, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors also charged Ali Charaf Damache, 46, an Algerian detained in Ireland, with conspiracy to aid terrorists and other charges. He had married another American suspect in the case, Jamie Paulin-Ramirez, the day she arrived in Ireland in 2009.
“Today’s indictment, which alleges a terrorist conspiracy involving individuals around the globe who connected via the Internet — including a teenager and two women living in America– underscores the evolving nature of violent extremism,” Lisa Monaco, an assistant attorney for national security, said in a news release.
Khalid’s lawyer, Jeffrey M. Lindy, said he was disappointed the government decided to charge Khalid as an adult. He vowed to fight the charges.
“We look forward to telling our side of the story to a jury that the government has been taking unconstitutional liberties with a kid who is now 18, but was 15, 16 years old (at the time of the alleged offenses),” Lindy told The Associated Press.
The FBI had searched the family’s home and interviewed the teen several times at FBI headquarters without a lawyer or family member present, according to a person close to the family. However, the parents had authorized the interviews.
Damache, known as “Black Flag,” tried to recruit men and women to train with the group known as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, prosecutors have said in court papers. The group is an al-Qaida offshoot that has focused its efforts inside Algeria. Damache also hoped to recruit people to train with Pakistan’s lead intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, authorities have said.
He is charged with conspiracy to aid terrorists and attempted identity theft to facilitate international terrorism. He has been in custody in Ireland since March 2010 and does not have a lawyer listed in the U.S. case.
Khalid, in his online solicitations, pledged to forward money to LaRose for her to pass on to the jihadists, authorities said.
“I know the sister and by Allah, all money will be transferred to her. The sister will then transfer the money to the brother via a method that I will not disclose,” he wrote in July 2009, according to the LaRose indictment.
He allegedly hid a passport he received from LaRose, presumably the one she stole from her live-in boyfriend in Pennsylvania before moving to Ireland in August 2009. By then, the FBI had been watching her activities based on YouTube videos she had made in which she called herself “Jihad Jane.”
LaRose, 48, of Pennsburg, later returned to the U.S. to surrender, and pleaded guilty this year to four federal charges, admitting she had agreed to try to kill the Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who had offended Muslims. She faces a life sentence.
Paulin-Ramirez, 32, of Leadville, Colo., pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorists, the same charge now
facing Khalid. The charge carries a maximum 15-year term. Her lawyer has called her a sincere religious convert who married “for the love of Islam, not for the love of her husband.”
Khalid came to the U.S. four years ago and has lived with his strict, education-focused family in Baltimore’s suburbs. An older brother attends a college honors program in engineering. He could be deported if he’s convicted.
Teachers at Mt. Hebron High School remember the May graduate for his strong work ethic. A district spokeswoman called him “very strong academically and an extremely hardworking student.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)