Federal prosecutors in
Mohammad Hassan Khalid, a Pakistani citizen and Maryland resident who graduated from Mount Hebron High School this year, is accused of using the Internet to recruit people and solicit funds for a violent jihadist war in South Asia and Europe.
He was indicted alongside Ali Charaf Damache, a 46-year-old Algerian man living in Ireland, and allegedly acted under the direction of Colleen R. LaRose, who dubbed herself "Jihad Jane" online, according to the indictment. LaRose, 47, pleaded guilty in February to conspiring to provide terrorist support and kill in a foreign country, attempted identity theft and making false statements to federal investigators.
Khalid, who was arrested in
"The charges are unbelievably serious, and we think they're inappropriate and inaccurate, and we really intend on defending [him]," Lindy said. "The family is devastated."
Khalid, now 18, was a budding writer who received an honorable mention in a CityLit contest last year for an essay titled "Voices Around the World" and had won a full scholarship to the
He could be sentenced to a maximum of 15 years in prison if convicted.
The indictment against him claims that beginning in 2008 or 2009, he worked with other conspirators, including LaRose, Damache and another American woman, to create a "a violent jihad organization" with people from the U.S. and Europe, who were to be divided into teams and assigned various tasks, including planning, research, finance and "action."
Some of the members were expected to travel to South Asia for "explosives training" and return to Europe, where they would wage holy war, the 14-page court filing claims.
It's unclear from the indictment how Khalid connected with LaRose.
The Pennsylvania woman had posted a comment on
She dreamed of being a martyr, they said, and had accepted an assignment from an oversees conspirator to kill a resident of Sweden in a way that would frighten "the whole Kufar [nonbeliever] world." She traveled to Europe and tracked the target online, but never got to follow through on the task, prosecutors said.
Khalid is first linked to her in the indictment through a July 8, 2009, email that she forwarded to the young man, who was then 15. It asked for money.
He is alleged to have responded: "I have waited for this 'donation' moment for so long and I want to make sure that everything is true so that the money reaches … the hands of brothers who are true to their intentions and are REAL mujahids [fighters engaged in violent jihad] not some fbi hungry agents."
That same day, prosecutors claim, he posted a request for funds on an online forum on LaRose's behalf, writing that "The sister has been in touch with a brother… [who] has appealed for urgent funds stating that his resources are limited … The sister has provided me with proofs that have confirmed that the brother is … true."
Less than two weeks later, LaRose falsely told
He's also accused of holding a passport until July of this year that he intended to transfer to the "mujaahideen" later.
In a statement, Assistant Attorney General for National Security Lisa Monaco said the indictment "underscores the evolving nature of violent extremism" which is playing out around the world with the aid of the Internet.
But Khalid's lawyer says investigators have misunderstood the communications.
"The government analysis of how this stuff got online is incorrect. This kid wouldn't know a terrorist if he ran over him in a car," Lindy said. "It's 100 percent based on what's going on the Internet, and I think they've totally misapprehended who was posting."
He declined to say what his client's role or purpose was, reserving the explanation for court.
Khalid is the second young Maryland man to be indicted on terrorism charges within the year. In December,