- Associated Press - Sunday, May 15, 2011

MIAMI (AP) — An elderly Miami imam and two of his sons have been arrested on federal charges they provided some $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban, while three others in Pakistan have been indicted on charges of handling distribution of the funds, authorities said.

Imam Hafiz Muhammed Sher Ali Khan, 76, was arrested Saturday at the Miami Mosque, also known as the Flagler Mosque. One of his sons, Izhar Khan, 24, another imam at the Jamaat Al-Mu’mineen Mosque in nearby Margate, Fla., was arrested there. Another son, Irfan Khan, 37, was detained in Los Angeles. The three are U.S. citizens. Their mosques are not suspected of wrongdoing, authorities said.

Also named in the indictment are three others at large in PakistanHafiz Khan’s daughter and grandson and an unrelated man, all three charged with handling the distribution of funds, authorities said. The Pakistani Taliban is designated by the State Department as a terrorist organization.

The indictment lists about $50,000 in transactions. According to the indictment, the funds were used to buy guns, support militants’ families and promote the cause of the Pakistani Taliban. It alleges that Hafiz Khan owns the religious school in northwest Pakistan that shelters members of the Pakistani Taliban and trains children to become militants.

Hafiz Khan’s 19-year-old grandson, Alam Zeb, who is accused of collecting and distributing money sent from the United States to the Pakistani Taliban, denied the charges against him and his family Sunday.

“It is baseless,” Mr. Zeb told the Associated Press in Sarsnai, a village in Pakistan’s Swat Valley where the elder Khan used to live and established a madrassa, or Islamic school.

Mr. Zeb also denied U.S. allegations that the madrassa that Hafiz Khan founded is used to shelter or support the Pakistani Taliban or has trained sent children off to learn how to fight Americans in Afghanistan.

The oldest of four brothers, Mr. Zeb also expressed surprise at the allegations against his uncle, Izhar Khan. He said the uncle spent about a month in the village a year ago — what Mr. Zeb said was the man’s first visit in 12 years.

He said he learned about the allegations Sunday from his mother, Amina Khan, who also has been accused of collecting and distributing money for the Pakistani Taliban. She was identified in the court documents as the daughter of the elder Florida imam.

In the United States, attempts to reach the U.S. men’s attorneys and families were unsuccessful. However, another son of Hafiz Khan, Ikram Khan, told the Miami Herald that his father was too old and sick to be involved in the plot.

“None of my family supports the Taliban,” he told the newspaper. “We support this country.”

If convicted, the South Florida men face 15 years in prison for each of the four counts listed in the indictment. All three are expected in court Monday.

U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said suspicious financial activity triggered the investigation three years ago.

U.S. authorities said the indictment recounts recorded conversations in which Hafiz Khan allegedly voices support for attacks on the Pakistani government and U.S. troops in the region, officials said.

The Pakistani Taliban is a wing of the terrorist group that originated in Afghanistan. It claimed responsibility for paired suicide bombings Friday that killed 87 people in what it said was vengeance for the killing of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. The group also has been linked to the Times Square car bombing in New York in May 2010.

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