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21-Year-Old Indian American Sentenced to Prison in Chicago for helping Islamic State (ISIS) Terror Organisation

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Indian Muslims in Kolkata are seen condemning Islamic State as an enemy of Islam and Muslims, in Kolkata, India, Dec. 5, 2015. (Photo - S. Azizur Rahman/VOA)

New York, Nov 20, 2016: An Indian American man who tried to go to Syria with his teenaged brother and sister to join the Islamic State terror organisation has been sentenced in Chicago to 40 months in prison.

Mohammed Hazra Khan, 21, became on Friday the first person of Indian origin to be convicted and sentenced in the US for Islamic State connections.

The sentencing hits the news just after the victory of Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, who had called for intensive investigation of Muslim immigrants and, controversially, suggesting that if necessary their immigration should be stopped temporarily till a mechanism for heightened scrutiny was in place.

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Federal Judge John J. Tharp sentenced Khan, who had admitted in court last year to the charges of providing support to the Islamic State and trying to go abroad to join it, Mary B. McCord, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security, said in a statement.

The judge in the Northern Illinois federal court also ordered that for 20 years after his release, Khan should undergo intensive supervision that includes “violent extremism counselling” and a mental health treatment programme, she added.

Khan was arrested by anti-terrorism officers two years ago while trying to leave the US from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, she said. He was 19 years old at the time of his arrest.

Khan’s brother, who was 16 years old in 2014, and sister, who was 17, were also stopped at the airport but did not face any charges and were let go after officials questioned them.

Khan is an American citizen born here. But his family had immigrated from India and lived in the Chicago area, The Chicago Tribune reported quoting his lawyer Thomas Anthony Durkin.

In a Tribune picture taken outside the courtroom, Khan’s mother, Zarine, was seen wearing a hijab and his father, Shafi, a long beard. The newspaper said that Khan wore a skullcap inside the court.

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ABCNews reported that last year, his mother had publicly asked IS leaders to “leave our children alone” and asserted: “The venom spewed by these groups and the violence committed by them find no support in the Quran and are completely at odds with our Islamic faith.”

Durkin told the judge that Khan did not intend to wage a jihad against the US but was naive and only wanted to join an Islamic caliphate and live according to Muslim doctrine, according to the Tribune.

Tharp did not buy the argument. The Tribune reported that the judge said: “Mr. Khan set off to join and aid a terrorist organization that believes it is appropriate, indeed believes it is holy, to kill anyone who disagrees with its religious dogma.”

Tharp referred to the behaviour of the Islamic State and told Khan that “instead of a public beheading, you have been given a public trial,” ABCNews reported.

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Khan could have been sentenced to 15 years, but the prosecutors asked for only five years because he had cooperated in other prosecutions and the judge gave the even more lenient sentence of 40 months.

With the two years he spent in custody and remission for good behaviour, he would eligible to be free to join college next year, ABCNews said.

The Tribune said that according to prosecutors, Khan helped with investigations against an Islamic State fighter and recruiters and had also offered to testify against a British Islamic State recruiter, Mizanur Rahman. (IANS)

Next Story

Devastating Islamic State Terror Group Set Conditions for Comeback

ISIS’s Second Comeback: Assessing the Next ISIS Insurgency, by the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW)

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Islamic State, Terror, Comeback
FILE - Islamic State members walk in the last besieged neighborhood in the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria, March 10, 2019. VOA

The Islamic State terror group has set conditions for a comeback that “could be faster and even more devastating” than when it first burst onto the world stage, according to a new report out Wednesday.

ISIS’s Second Comeback: Assessing the Next ISIS Insurgency, by the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW), also warns the terror group, often referred to as IS or ISIS, is likely to reclaim territory both in Syria and in Iraq, where it is already seizing control.

“ISIS has systematically eliminated village leaders and civilians who cooperated with anti-ISIS forces,” the report says. “It has re-imposed taxes on local populations in its historical support zones, displacing civilians and de facto controlling small pockets of terrain in Iraq.”

In Syria, IS faces a more daunting task, where it is still battling the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al Assad, and Hay’at Tharir al-Sham, al Qaida’s Syrian affiliate.

Islamic State, Terror, Comeback
FILE — A member of U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) watches over people who were evacuated out of the last territory held by Islamic State militants, outside Baghouz, Syria, March 5, 2019. VOA

Still, the report’s authors believe IS is well-prepared for the fight, having taken advantage of the slow and methodical U.S.-backed campaign to roll back the terror group’s self-declared caliphate.

“ISIS deliberately withdrew and relocated many of its fighters and their families,” the reports states.

“ISIS’s forces are now dispersed across both countries and are waging a capable insurgency,” it says. “ISIS retained a global finance network that funded its transition back to an insurgency and managed to preserve sufficient weapons and other supplies in tunnel systems and other support zones in order to equip its regenerated insurgent force.”

The concerns about a possible IS resurgence are not new.

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As far back as August 2018, U.S. defense officials were warning IS was “well-positioned to rebuild and work on enabling its physical caliphate to re-emerge.”

More recently, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Stabilization Denise Natali warned, “the threat persists.”

And even this week, a statement by the Global Coalition to Defeat IS, admitted the terror group remains both resilient and undaunted, with cells in Syria and Iraq to conduct an increasing number of attacks against coalition partners and coalition partner forces.

“This is a major concern for the entire Coalition, as it puts at risk key military gains and the stability necessary for recovery,” the statement said.

Islamic State, Terror, Comeback
FILE – A U.S. soldier sits in an armored vehicle on a road leading to the tense front line with Turkish-backed fighters, in Manbij, north Syria, April 4, 2018. Pixabay

Data compiled by the Syrian-based Rojava Information Center and published earlier this month seems to support such concerns.

The center found there were 139 attacks by IS sleeper cells in northeastern Syria alone in May, an increase of 61% over the previous month. The number of deaths also rose, 42% in May to 78, with increases even in previously secure areas.

In addition to the attacks, IS has been blamed for burning hundreds of hectares of farmland in Syria and Iraq.

According to the most recent U.S. estimates, IS still commands at least 10,000 fighters across the two countries.  But despite the threat, U.S. troops involved in supporting the fight against IS have been leaving Syria.

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“The number of U.S. forces that are present now is quite a bit lower than when the drawdown began,” Chris Maier, the director of the Pentagon’s Defeat IS Task Force, told a small group of reporters last month.

“U.S. force numbers will continue to draw down as conditions continue to, we hope, improve,” he added.

Since then, some U.S. forces have been assigned to return to Syria, but according to U.S. defense officials, their primary mission is to protect forces there from growing threats from Iranian proxies in the region.

The overall trendlines, though, concern the authors of the ISW report, calling the lessening U.S. engagement, especially in Syria, “a critical mistake.”

Instead, the report calls on the U.S. to develop a long-term strategy that combines both military and a plan to address ongoing economic and humanitarian problems.

“Another limited intervention will not be sufficient,” concludes study co-author Jennifer Cafarella.

“The ISIS campaign in Iraq and Syria has demonstrated to ostensibly liberated communities that they are not safe, perpetuating conditions of fear and distrust that will make it increasingly difficult to establish durable and legitimate security and political structures.” (VOA)