Varsity student arrested in Karachi over 'international terror financing' charges

Published January 18, 2021
The held suspect was allegedly involved in sending money to families of militants linked with the militant Islamic State group in Syria. — AP/File
The held suspect was allegedly involved in sending money to families of militants linked with the militant Islamic State group in Syria. — AP/File

The Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of Sindh Police on Monday claimed to have arrested a student of Karachi's NED University of Engineering and Technology over charges of "international terror financing".

“The CTD arrested Hafiz Mohammed Omer bin Khalid over international terror financing charges when he was trying to flee the city,” CTD DIG Omar Shahid Hamid told a press conference at his office. According to Hamid, the held suspect is a final year student at the varsity.

“He was involved in sending money to families of militants linked with the global [militant] Islamic State group in Syria,” said the officer. According to the CTD, Khalid used to provide cash to an associate, named Zia, in Hyderabad, who converted it into dollars before sending it to Syria. He has sent over Rs1 million so far, said Hamid.

Speaking about the investigation, DIG Hamid said the CTD had received information that some people were collecting funds from Pakistan, which were being sent to IS militants in Syria through various means. Acting on a tip-off, police detained the said suspect and seized two mobile phones from his possession on December 17, 2020.

At the time, however, the suspect was released on bail as the CTD had no "concrete evidence" against him. Meanwhile, the seized cell phones were sent to the CTD’s technical division for forensic analysis, which reported its findings on January 11.

According to the forensic report, the suspect was found to have links with persons who collected funds from Pakistan and sent them to IS militants in Syria. The report also established that he was in direct contact with suspected terrorists in Pakistan and Syria through their families.

During the press conference, DIG Hamid said that Khalid received money from unknown persons in Pakistan through a mobile payments service who had links with the families of the IS militants in Syria. Subsequently, he transferred the funds to Zia in Hyderabad — also through the mobile transaction service — who then converted them into dollars and transferred the same through Bitcoin crypto-currency to the families of militants in Syria.

This activity had been going on for the last two years, said Hamid, adding that the CTD registered a First Information Report against Khalid and other unidentified suspects on Jan 11 and started further investigations.

Khalid had allegedly gone underground and was trying to flee the city via train when he was arrested at the Cantt Station in Karachi.

Another CTD officer, Raja Umer Khattab, said that Khalid was an associate of another suspect, Saad, who had links with Al Qaeda. He was influenced by his friend to join the militant group.

Saad has been missing for the last few years, said Khattab, adding that "jihadi families" in Syria had established Twitter accounts through which they demanded funds. He added that different social media apps were being used for coordination.

According to Khattab, most of the families that had travelled to Syria were from Punjab, particularly Lahore. He said women were being used to generate funds for the militants.

Meanwhile, DIG Hamid told Dawn that the families of militants in Syria were reportedly Pakistani women who had gone there and married IS militants. They were in touch with the militants in Pakistan and seeking funds from here.

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