MIAMI (AP) - A Miami imam and two of his sons were arrested Saturday on charges they provided some $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban, designated by the State Department as a terrorist organization, officials said.
Hafiz Muhammed Sher Ali Khan, 76, was arrested after morning services at the Miami Mosque, also known as the Flagler Mosque, where he is an imam. One of his sons, Izhar Khan, 24, an imam at the Jamaat Al-Mu'mineen Mosque in nearby Margate, Fla., was arrested after morning services there. Another son, Irfan Khan, 37, was detained at his hotel room in Los Angeles around the same time. The men are U.S. citizens. Their mosques are not suspected of wrongdoing, officials said.
Attempts to reach the men's families, attorneys and mosques were unsuccessful Saturday.
Also named in the indictment are three others at large in Pakistan - Hafiz Khan's daughter, grandson and an unrelated man, all three of whom are charged with handling the distribution of funds.
The indictment lists about $50,000 in transactions. The funds were used to buy guns, support militants' families and promote the cause of the Pakistani Taliban, according to the indictment. It also alleges that Hafiz Khan owns a madrassa, or religious school, in his native Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan that shelters members of the Pakistani Taliban and trains children to become militants.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer noted that the investigation was sparked by suspicious financial activity and was not based on an undercover sting operation.
"This is based on the defendant's words, actions and records," Ferrer said at a news conference Saturday.
The indictment recounts recorded conversations in which Hafiz Khan allegedly voices support for attacks on the Pakistani government and American troops in the region.
The Pakistani Taliban is a wing of the terrorist group that began in Afghanistan. It claimed responsibility for a pair of suicide bombings that killed more than 80 people on Friday in what it said was vengeance for the killing of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden. The group has also been linked to the Times Square car bombing in New York in May 2010.
If convicted, the South Florida men face 15 years in prison for each of the four counts listed in the indictment.
It's not the first terror case to come out of the area. In June 2006, a group that became known as the "Liberty City Seven" was arrested in the Miami neighborhood by that name. They had been accused in a plot to destroy Chicago's Sears Tower. Five men were convicted, while two were acquitted. The plot never got past the discussion stage, which led defense attorneys and national terrorism experts to describe the case as overblown.