AUSTIN (KXAN) — Two Central Texas men are facing charges that they provided material support to terrorists, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Rahatul Ashikim Khan, 23, was arrested Tuesday at his home on Pebblestone Trail in Round Rock. Authorities say he conspired with others to recruit people who would “travel overseas to support terrorist activities including committing violent jihad.”
The charges accuse Khan of connecting a confidential FBI source with co-conspirators who eventually discussed the secret source’s “passport and possible routes to move [the source] into Somalia to join al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda-affiliated , [terrorist organization].”
The documents also say the FBI source met with Khan in Austin, in an unrecorded meeting. Investigators believe Khan said that “he could not wait to spill blood. Khan said that he was actively searching for recruits for [a conspirator] and he was the only person he knew of doing this.”
“We just recently moved into this neighborhood back in October and all the neighbors seemed friendly and nice and never heard anything or saw anything out of the ordinary coming from the folks across the street or anything like that,” said Kenneth McKnight, who lives nearby.
Khan, was arrested in the Teravista community in Round Rock. Several residents there were notified of FBI activity Tuesday by a neighborhood social media site.
Court documents show Khan is a full-time student at the University of Texas at Austin.
In a separate case, Michael Todd Wolfe, also known as Faruq, 23, of Austin, was arrested as he prepared to board a flight to Europe. Officials say he was planning to travel to the Middle East “to provide his services to radical groups engaged in armed conflict in Syria.”
According to the federal criminal complaint, Wolfe told an undercover investigator that he was doing “Cross-Fit” to physically prepare for jihad.
Wolfe and the undercover agent began communicating in late 2013. Court documents detail their conversations as well as Wolfe’s plans to fly his family from Texas to Denmark under the guise of attending a concert.
At Austin’s oldest mosque, the Nueces Mosque, Imam Mohammed-Umer Esmail told KXAN he knew Kahn a bit from years ago and had traded social media messages with Wolfe. The imam says he never sensed any anger or danger from either man.
“It’s really sad hearing about what happened,” he said. “We’ll let the justice system make the call on it. Right now it’s premature to make any sort of statement.”
If convicted, both men face up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
“The growing safe haven for Islamic extremism in Syria and Iraq poses the greatest threat to the national security of Western Europe and the United States today,” said Texas Congressman Michael McCaul, who serves as chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security. “Americans and other Westerners with legal travel documents are going to Syria to join the fight and are being trained by jihadists to attack Western targets. This war is not over and the administration needs to face this crisis head on.”
The men were arrested as a result of a joint investigation between federal agents, military intelligence and local police agencies.
“This case is the culmination of a long-term investigation by the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force made up of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in Central Texas. It’s a textbook example of how well law enforcement agencies in this area work together,” stated United States Attorney Robert Pitman.
“Protecting the citizens of this community from the threat of harm both from within the United States and abroad is our highest priority, and we will continue to work with our partners to detect, investigate and prosecute those who seek to advance their ideology through acts of terrorism.”