WASHINGTON – LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – A fugitive U.S.-designated terrorist, who is the subject of a $5 million U.S. reward and is believed to be at large in the Philippines, has been indicted on terrorism-related charges in the Northern District of California along with his brother in the U.S., who allegedly provided funds and equipment to him even as the fugitive evaded capture and battled Philippine troops, the Justice Department announced today.
The 16-count indictment and an arrest in the case this morning were announced by Kenneth L. Wainstein, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; Scott N. Schools, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California; Joseph Billy, Jr., FBI Assistant Director for Counterterrorism; and Julie L. Myers, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Zulkifli Abdhir, aka “Zulkifli Bin Abdul Hir, aka “Hulagu,” aka “Marwan,” age 41, a fugitive believed to be in the Philippines, is charged in the indictment with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and providing material support to terrorists. In September 2003, the U.S. government designated Abdhir as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist pursuant to Executive Order 13224. In March 2007, the State Department added him to the most-wanted list of its Rewards for Justice program and authorized a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his arrest or conviction, noting that he was a member of the central command of Jemaah Islamiyah and was believed to be involved in multiple deadly bomb attacks in the Philippines.
Rahmat Abdhir, aka “Sean Kasem,” aka “Sean Kalimin,” age 43, is a U.S. citizen living in San Jose, Calif., and the brother of Zulkifli Abdhir. Rahmat Abdhir is charged in the indictment with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, providing material to terrorists, contributing goods and services to a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (his brother), and false statements. FBI agents arrested Rahmat Abdhir this morning outside his place of employment in Sunnyvale, Calif. He made his initial appearance today in federal court in San Jose.
With today’s arrest and indictment, we have closed off a channel by which an American citizen was allegedly funding and supplying a fugitive designated terrorist with two-way radios and other materials for his operations overseas,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security Kenneth L. Wainstein. “As this case demonstrates, we will bring the full force of the law against anyone who uses the resources of our economy to support overseas terrorism.”
U.S. Attorney Scott N. Schools said, “This indictment is the product of the extraordinary efforts that FBI, ICE, CBP and their federal, state and local partners have made to assure that the country is protected from future terrorist acts and that individuals who sympathize with terrorists in other parts of the world do not find comfort in the United States. I appreciate the investigative efforts of the FBI and ICE, and the prosecutorial efforts and expertise provided by the Department’s National Security Division.”
“Today’s charges illustrate the workings of an international terror network — and how law enforcement and intelligence agencies, joining together and sharing information, can successfully disrupt the deadly plans of terrorists,” said Joseph Billy Jr., FBI Assistant Director for Counterterrorism.
“ICE leveraged both our customs and immigration authorities during this investigation,” said Julie L. Myers, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “Working with our law enforcement partners, federal agents were able to seize dangerous equipment destined for people who mean to do harm.”
Money, Radios and Other Equipment Sent from the U.S.
According to the indictment, Zulkifli Abdhir and Rahmat Abdhir communicated with one another between the United States and Philippines, often in code to disguise the nature of their activities, as Zulkifli Abdhir engaged in battles with Philippine troops and evaded capture. Among other things, they discussed items that Zulkifli Abdhir wanted his brother to send him in the Philippines from the United States, including money and accessories for firearms, Insignia two-way radios, backpacks, and knives.
According to the indictment, Rahmat Abdhir shipped requested items to his brother in the Philippines using various aliases for the sender and the recipient. Between June 2006 and June 2007, Rahmat Abdhir allegedly shipped nearly 30 hand-held or two-way radios, as well as Colt .45 magazines, binoculars, a rifle scope and firearms manual, flashlights, batteries, and camouflage clothing to his brother.
The indictment also alleges Zulkifli Abdhir routinely informed Rahmat Abdhir when he needed money sent or wired to the Philippines for purchases of items including firearms and ammunition. Rahmat Abdhir transferred the requested money to Zulkifli Abdhir through bank accounts that his brother provided in the Philippines, varying the times and amounts of money sent, and using false names and addresses. Between June 2006 and June 2007, Rahmat Abdhir allegedly sent more than $10,000 to his brother.
Zulkifli Abdhir kept his brother in the U.S. informed of his situation on the ground in the Philippines by providing reports of battles between Philippine troops and his protectors there, including elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The MILF has waged a secessionist campaign in the Southern Philippines over approximately the last 30 years and has provided assistance to groups such as Al Qaeda’s regional affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah and the Abu Sayyaf group.
In one instance, Zulkifli Abdhir described an effort by Philippine government troops to capture him on Aug. 10, 2006 in which commandos surrounded his house and a gun battle ensued. Zulkifli Abdhir also described numerous battles and conflicts with Philippine government troops after a ceasefire between MILF and the Philippine government ended on Sept. 30, 2006. In turn, Rahmat Abdhir routinely kept his brother informed by providing news stories and Internet links that reported on the conflict in the Philippines and the fact that Zulkifli Abdhir was a wanted fugitive.
The maximum penalty for Count One of the indictment, which charges Zulkifli Abdhir and Rahmat Abdhir with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, is 15 years imprisonment. The maximum penalty for Count Two of the indictment, which charges Zulkifli Abdhir and Rahmat Abdhir with providing material support to terrorists, is 15 years imprisonment.
The maximum penalty for Counts Three through Fifteen of the indictment, which charge Rahmat Abdhir with contributing goods and services to a Specially Designated Terrorist, is 20 years imprisonment per count. The penalty for Count Sixteen of the indictment, which charges Rahmat Abdhir with false statements, is eight years imprisonment (maximum if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism).
This case is being investigated by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in San Francisco, with assistance from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Schmidt of the Northern District of California and Trial Attorney John T. Gibbs of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, Counterterrorism Section.
The public is reminded that the charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.