Federal prosecutors say that a translator hired by the United States to work in Afghanistan lied about having contacts with recruiters for the terrorist group responsible for a notorious bombing in August 2021 that killed 13 American troops. (Feds Charge Pentagon)
Before and after he worked for the United States as a linguist in Afghanistan, the government claims in a federal criminal complaint filed in Kansas on Monday that Mohammad Rafi Mohammadi communicated with, provided funding for, and, in one instance, attempted to secure the release of recruiters for ISIS-Khorasan (ISIS-K).
While completing a security clearance form for his work as a linguist in 2019, Mohammadi allegedly denied “ever associating” with anyone involved in activities to further terrorism. However, in the wake of the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, FBI agents are looking into him and say that a trail of Facebook messages, social media posts, and the testimony of an informer contradict that account.
Experts say that while lying on forms for security clearance is against the law and can result in criminal penalties, prosecutions are typically uncommon and reserved for extreme situations. The case comes at a time when thousands of interpreters, soldiers, and employees who fought alongside the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS-K and the Taliban are still trying to find safety in the United States after the Taliban took control.
A request for comment was not received by the Justice Department in time for publication.
During the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, ISIS-K, which was established in 2015, has come into conflict with both Taliban forces and NATO troops.ISIS-K members killed 170 civilians in a suicide bombing and subsequent firefight at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport during the U.S. withdrawal in its most notorious attack. The attack resulted in the deaths of 13 American soldiers, making it the second deadliest day for American troops in Afghanistan since the start of the war. (Feds Charge Pentagon)
According to a criminal complaint, the FBI sent a confidential human source to investigate the linguist in the fall of 2021, after the United States withdrew from the country and “received information concerning [Mohammadi’s interactions with known members of ISIS-K].” The exact date of the FBI’s investigation of Mohammadi is unknown.
In October 2019, Mohammadi was sent to Afghanistan as a contract linguist by the Defense Department. Prior to his trip to Afghanistan, Mohammadi allegedly had a history of supporting an ISIS-K recruiter, which the Pentagon was unaware of.According to the findings of the investigation, he had been in contact with “Individual 1,” a man who was detained in February 2019 by the National Directorate of Security (NDS) of Afghanistan for “recruiting militants for ISIS-K and deploying them to a specific province within Afghanistan.”
The alleged recruiter was not named by the prosecution, but the description of him as the subject of an NDS arrest that was publicly announced matches that of Abu Obaidullah Mutawakil, a jihadist preacher who was arrested in Kabul in February 2019.That month, Mutawakil’s arrest was the only one that was made public and announced.
Mohammadi and the individual appear to have been friends at least since early January 2018, when the Kansas man tried to get the recruiter’s phone number by Facebook messaging a friend. Following the recruiter’s arrest in February 2019, Mohammadi allegedly sent the recruiter $400 via Western Union and uploaded a video of himself to his Facebook page.
Mohammadi appears to have raised little suspicion after being deployed to Afghanistan in October 2019, with the exception of a brief incident in which, according to investigators, “he attempted to sneak back onto the military base, as he left the base without permission.” (Feds Charge Pentagon)
Mohammadi allegedly attempted to assist a second ISIS-K recruiter, identified in court documents as “Individual 2,” while in the country following an arrest. In July 2019, Individual 2 was detained by the NDS of Afghanistan for “recruiting students to join ISIS-K and encouraging them to carry out terrorist attacks.” In July 2019, NDS announced the arrest of Mubasher Muslimya, a lecturer at Kabul University who allegedly recruited students to act as ISIS-K suicide bombers. Mohammadi allegedly told an FBI informant that he had attempted to help secure the man’s release while working as a linguist in Afghanistan. Along with Muslimiya, brothers Ahmad Farou and Ahmad Tariq, who were students at the university, were detained. The only detentions connected to ISIS-K recruiting that month that were made public were theirs.
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