US & Canada

US charges six with aiding Pakistani Taliban

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Media captionEach of the four counts carries a possible 15-year jail term

Authorities in the US have charged six people with providing financial support to the Pakistani Taliban.

Three are US citizens, including two imams at Florida mosques, while three are at large in Pakistan.

The news comes amid heightened tension in relations between Pakistan and the US following the US raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

The Pakistani Taliban said it was behind a revenge attack on Friday that killed 80 in north-western Pakistan.

Pakistani MPs on Saturday passed a resolution condemning the US special forces raid in the town of Abbottabad and demanding a review of the bilateral relationship.

US Senator John Kerry, who is about to visit Pakistan, told the BBC the US wanted to "build, not break" ties with Pakistan but said there were "serious questions that need to be answered" in the relationship.

Florida imams

The four-count indictment against the six people was announced by Wifredo Ferrer - US attorney for the Southern District of Florida - and local FBI agents.

The indictment mentions financial transfers of $50,000 (£30,000) but Mr Ferrer said evidence suggested this was "the tip of the iceberg".

The three Florida citizens were named as Hafiz Khan, 76, and his sons Irfan Khan, 37, and Izhar Khan, 24.

Hafiz Khan is the imam at the Flagler Mosque in Miami, while Izhar Khan is the imam at the Jamaat al-Mumineen Mosque in nearby Margate. Officials said their mosques were not suspected of wrongdoing.

Ali Rehman, Alam Zeb and Amina Khan, who live in Pakistan, were also charged.

Amina Khan is the daughter of Hafiz Khan. Alam Zeb is her son.

The six are accused of conspiring to provide material support to a conspiracy to murder, injure and kidnap people abroad and conspiring to provide support to a terrorist organisation, the Pakistani Taliban.

Each of the four counts carries a possible 15-year jail term.

Hafiz and Izhar Khan are expected in court in Miami on Monday. Irfan Khan was arrested in Los Angeles and will appear in court there.

Miami FBI special agent John Gillies said: "Today terrorists have lost another funding source to use against innocent people and US interests. We will not allow this country to be used as a base for funding and recruiting terrorists."

Mr Ferrer said: "Despite being an imam... Hafiz Khan was by no means a man of peace. He acted with others to support terrorists to further acts of murder, kidnapping and maiming."

The indictment says that, on hearing seven American soldiers had been killed in Afghanistan, Hafiz Khan said in one recorded conversation that he hoped God would kill 50,000 more.

But Ikram Khan, another son of Hafiz Khan, said his father was too old and unwell to be involved in a plot.

"None of my family supports the Taliban. We support this country," he told the Miami Herald

Ties remain tense between the US and Pakistan

On Saturday Pakistan's parliament called for a review of the country's relationship with the US and condemned the US raid that killed Bin Laden as a "unilateral action... which constitutes a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty".

'Serious questions'

The resolution said: "The people of Pakistan will no longer tolerate such actions and a repeat of unilateral measures could have dire consequences for peace and security in the region and the world."

The resolution urged a ban on Nato transit convoys unless the US ended its drone attacks in the country.

The session followed Friday's double suicide bombing that killed 80 people in north-western Pakistan.

At least 120 others were wounded in the attack on a Frontier Constabulary training centre in Shabqadar, Charsadda district.

In another attack, on Saturday, at least five people were killed and 10 injured when a bomb exploded on a bus near the garrison town of Kharian, 130km (80 miles) south-east of Islamabad.

Members of the US Congress have been calling for Washington to cut its billions of dollars in aid to Islamabad, saying some Pakistani officials must have known Bin Laden was hiding in the country.

John Kerry, on a visit to Afghanistan, said there were "serious questions that need to be answered" in the US-Pakistan relationship.

Mr Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in the Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif: "We're not trying to find a way to break the relationship apart, we're trying to find a way to build it."

However the Democrat senator, who is close to the Obama administration, said that if the US came to believe Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar was in Pakistan, the US would "always reserve all of its options to be able to protect our people".

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