In mid-June, two Austin men were arrested on charges related to terrorism, one of them being University of Texas student, Rahat Khan, and the other, Michael Wolfe, also known as Faruq.
Both men, 23, were charged with “conspiring to provide material support to terrorists,” according to the Department of Justice.
The criminal complaint against Khan alleges that he conspired to “recruit people to travel overseas to support terrorist activities including committing violent jihad,” and that he used the Authentic Tauheed Paltalk chat room to locate these recruits.
Authentic Tauheed is an online chat room used for listening and taking notes on lectures discussing Islam.
The documents accuse Khan of connecting an informant with co-conspirators who 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],” as reported by KXAN.
FBI officials also allege they met with Khan, and in an unrecorded meeting the suspect said, “he could not wait to spill blood.”
The federal complaint alleges Wolfe said he told an undercover agent that he was practicing “Cross-Fit” so that he would be fit for jihad.
Friends say UT student was devoted to his family
Other than information provided to the media by FBI arrest affidavits, little has been known about the two men. However, a recent interview with one of the suspect’s close friends, and acquaintance, Ryen Burns, sheds light on the life the men led, detailing relationships and beliefs that were important to them.
Khan’s close friend, who wishes to remain anonymous due to previous visits by the FBI, said he met Khan about two years ago at the North Austin Muslim Community Center, which functions as a place of worship and offers a chance for Muslim brothers and sisters to get to know each other.
When news of the arrest broke, the Central Texas Joint Terrorism Task Force refused to provide details regarding the men’s relationship and if the two cases were related; however, it’s now been confirmed that they did in fact know each other.
Sources say the Muslim community in Austin is very tight knit, and the two men shared mutual friends as well as attended the same mosque.
When asked about their reaction to the charges brought against their friends, both admitted they were quite shocked and skeptical of the allegations.Khan’s close friend, who knew his family and worked for his father in the construction business, said he “spent time with him [Khan] in the most private of settings, when there was no one else around, and not once did he ever try to recruit me for al shabab or get me to go to Somalia.”
In fact, one of the most important concepts Khan learned during his time as a Muslim was “balance.” He constantly spoke of the importance of balance and avoiding extremism in any religion, they said.
According to the friends, while engaging in conversation about world events, including America’s foreign policy, and the fighting between Gaza and Israel, Khan stood up for America’s liberties, stressing that Muslims have a far better livelihood in the United States than in many other countries.
About a year and a half ago while they were driving around, Khan reportedly told friends that he felt Austin, Texas was the safest place in the world to be Muslim.
“Does that sound like the views of an extremist? When we’re in the car and nobody else is around?
“It doesn’t to me, and that’s why I have a hard time believing it,” said the suspect’s close friend.
“Because the word Muslim is thrown in there, all of a sudden there is an intention, and a motive, and there’s conspiracy,” added Burns.
“I just don’t buy it.”
If the suspects were trying to leave the country, and were perceived as a threat, why not just revoke their citizenship and prevent them from returning? asked the friends.
Since their arrest, both men initially pleaded not guilty, but later in a second hearing that plea was reversed.
The guilty plea was the “path of least resistance,” said the friend, adding that Khan most likely wanted to save his family the expenses and heartache of a trial.
“He knows he looks super Muslim, he’s brown in America in 2014 and he has charges on him.
“With all of the current foreign affairs going on in the Muslim world, and America’s foreign policy and domestic policy, I think they [FBI] misunderstood” and what was said in the Paltalk chat room was taken out of context, they said.
On the day Khan and Wolfe were arrested, nearly ten friends of the men received visits from the FBI, questioning them about their relationships to the suspects and whether or not they had plans to travel.
One of the friends questioned by agents said the FBI made up lies about him, and spread them around in an attempt to intimidate others during the interrogations.
“They said I was an al-Qaeda recruiter shipping people in crates.”
Despite his unpleasant interaction with the FBI, he surprisingly defended their mission.
“I think that these agents are trying to do their job, be it by any means necessary,” he admitted.
“I think they’re trying to protect the homeland, but that doesn’t mean they’re going about it the right way. They might be sincere, but I believe they’re sincerely wrong.”
High profile Austin attorney, Joseph A Turner, who has represented clients like Willie Nelson, was unable to provide any information on Khan’s case, suggesting there may be something to tell in a few months.
Kahn is currently being held at the Bastrop County Jail, and Wolfe at the Caldwell County Jail. Sentencing for the two men has yet to be scheduled.
BIO: Julie Wilson is an Austin-based investigative journalist whose articles have been cited on sites such as Natural News, Infowars, Ben Swann and The Liberty Beat. Follow me on Twitter @JulieJay2904! If you have any tips please email Julie.Wilson2034@gmail.com.
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