How long before people like Muhanad Al-Farekh decide to set off their jihad car bombs right at home in Texas?
U.S. prosecutors say they can tie an alleged al-Qaeda extremist who became radicalized in Winnipeg – and who the CIA had once considered killing overseas with a drone strike – to a deadly car-bomb attack against a military base in Afghanistan.
Muhanad Al-Farekh, an American born in Texas, allegedly joined al-Qaeda eight years ago with two students he met during his university studies in Canada. He was captured in Pakistan and recently brought back to the United States to face a charge of supporting terrorism. He will also likely be charged with murder or murder-conspiracy by the end of this year.
Authorities suggest they can produce fingerprint evidence that links Mr. Farekh to a January, 2009, car bombing in Afghanistan. Officials will not confirm which attack it is, but the most prominent such bombing that month killed four Afghans and two U.S. soldiers in Kabul.
New charges against Mr. Farekh would raise the profile of a once-obscure case that started as a missing-persons investigation in Canada and evolved into a U.S.-led international manhunt in which authorities accused the three men of joining al-Qaeda.
The probe started in 2007, when three University of Manitoba students disappeared from Winnipeg. Friends of the men said that they grew more outwardly religious and, at times, intolerant. A criminal complaint filed in New York says they listened online to lectures by the firebrand preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen suspected of terrorism.
Over the years, as evidence mounted that the men had joined al-Qaeda terrorists operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the investigation reached into the inner sanctum of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency….
Earlier this year, The New York Times reported that Mr. Farekh was at the centre of a 2012 “kill or capture” debate. Washington officials reportedly deliberated whether they would allow him to live or die, until then-attorney general Eric Holder pushed for arrest, charges and a criminal trial.
The two Canadians who travelled with Mr. Farekh – Ferid Imam and Maiwand Yar – have been unaccounted for since disappearing into the Afghanistan-Pakistan borderlands. The U.S. suspect was flown from Pakistan to the United States almost a year ago. He made an appearance in a Brooklyn court last spring to face a single charge of “conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism.”
But during a September hearing, a prosecutor revealed that the U.S. Department of Justice will raise the stakes. “We believe we will be adding additional charges, certainly, including ‘conspiracy to murder’ and perhaps a substantive ‘murder’ count,” prosecutor Zainab Ahmad said.