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Brothers Face Terrorism Charges In South Florida

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(Source: Jasmine Kripalani/CBS4)

South Florida Crime

MIAMI (CBSMiami) –  Two brothers of Pakistani descent living in Oakland Park have been charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, U.S. attorney Wifredo Ferrer announced Friday afternoon.

According to the U.S. Attorney, Raees Alam Qazi, 20, and Sheheryar Alam Qazi (Sheheryar), 30, both naturalized citizens, were arrested and charged with the two counts Friday. The Qazi brothers made their initial appearance in federal court in Fort Lauderdale.

At the condo where the brothers live in Oakland Park, family members gathered. A man who described himself as a brother, but would not give his name, told CBS4’s Maggie Newland law enforcement agents burst into the condo Thursday.

“Everybody is shocked like what the hell is going on? we work here we don’t do nothing wrong,” he said.

He described his brother Sheheryar as a family man.

“He drives taxi everyday he comes home plays with him [his baby] he has a beautiful wife,” he said, adding his younger brother Raees is looking for work.

“The younger one is also the same he never harm anybody he help anybody anything somebody needed,” he said.

He would not speculate about why his brothers were arrested but insisted they have no connection to terrorism.

“I know my brothers are innocent they never did anything wrong we live together we try to make a life here everyday,” he said.

A source told CBS4′s Jim DeFede that the men had lived in South Florida for “a number of years” and were living in the same residence when they were arrested.

According to the indictment, the conspiracy lasted from at least July 2011 through November 29, 2012. However, a source said the arrests were not the result of a sting operation.

The indictment said the defendants conspired to give material support and resources including property, services, funding, lodging, communications equipment, personnel and transportation in the conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction.

The U.S. Attorney’s office said the brothers planned on using the weapon of mass destruction, a destructive device, inside the United States.

A source said the weapon of mass destruction “was not biological, chemical, or radioactive.” Rather, it was a “home-made” type of device.

The source said the FBI decided to move abruptly against the two men because, “there was a serious threat” posed by them and they appeared ready to carry out an attack here in South Florida. There were specific targets in mind; but the source wouldn’t identify them as the investigation is ongoing.

“At no time was South Florida at risk,” the source told DeFede, “because we were on to it.”

According to the source, both men were active in the Muslim community and attended a local mosque, but the source said there is no indication the local Muslim community or the mosque had anything to do with the threat.

Nazar Hamze, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, says none of the mosque leaders he spoke with are aware of the men. He added that he’s looking forward to learning more about this case and wants to know if anyone in the Muslim community came forward to investigators with vital information that led to the arrests.

“It’s troubling that this is still happening but the Muslim community is vigilant,” he told CBS 4’s Carey Codd. “We’re going to make sure that if these types of individuals are identified law enforcement will be made aware of it immediately.”

The source told DeFede the brothers may have been acting on their own, but officials are looking to see if they are part of a larger organization.

Federal authorities were trying to determine who the men may have been tied to when the possibility of an attack forced them to make the arrest.

The charges carry maximum sentences ranging from 15 years for providing material support to terrorist to life in prison for conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction.

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