NEW YORK – In the days before their arrest on terrorism charges, two American citizens swore a formal oath of loyalty to Al Qaeda (search) as they conspired to use their skills in martial arts and medicine to aid international terrorism, prosecutors say.
Dr. Rafiq Abdus Sabir (search), 50, of Boca Raton, Fla., and Tarik Shah (search), 42, of New York, were to make their first appearances Tuesday in federal courthouses in Fort Pierce, Fla., and Manhattan, respectively.
The names of their lawyers were not available Monday.
The men were arrested Friday on a charge they conspired to provide material support to Al Qaeda, an FBI (search) agent said. If convicted, each could face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.
The one-count complaint details a sting operation from 2003 to 2005 in which the two men took an oath pledging their allegiance to Al Qaeda.
Prosecutors said Sabir, an Ivy League-educated doctor, agreed to treat jihadists, or holy warriors, in Saudi Arabia. Shah, a jazz musician and a self-described martial arts expert, allegedly agreed to train them in hand-to-hand combat.
Shah's mother, Marlene Jenkins of Albany, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel the charge against her son is ridiculous and insisted he's not a terrorist. Sabir's former wife, Ingrid Doyle of New York, told the newspaper he was a good father and husband, and a hardworking man.
An 18-page complaint unsealed Monday repeatedly described Shah's zest to train "brothers" for urban warfare. It alleged both men pledged their allegiance to Al Qaeda during a May 20 meeting in the Bronx.
Shah went with an informant to a windowless Long Island warehouse to see if the location would be adequate as a training site, unaware FBI agents were secretly videotaping the visit, the papers said.
He discussed a desire to open a machine shop to make weapons so fellow enthusiasts would not have to rely on anyone else to get guns, the complaint said.
"Shah indicated that his `greatest cover has been' his career as a `professional' jazz musician," wrote Brian Murphy, the FBI agent who prepared the complaint.
At one point, the informant told Shah he was going to take him to Plattsburgh, N.Y., to introduce him to an undercover FBI agent posing as a recruiter from the Middle East.
Murphy said Shah was eager to introduce Sabir — a "very, very, very close friend" he had known for more than 20 years — to the recruiter.
Shah also discussed a desire to start a martial arts school only for Muslims and said he hoped to be trained in chemicals, explosives, firearms, AK-47 assault rifles and hand grenades, the complaint said. The defendant allegedly discussed martyrdom with the informant, saying he and Sabir had been persecuted for many years.
Sabir's neighbors in Florida said they knew little about him or his family.
"I never had a conversation with them," said Lisa Kozan, 39, who lives across the street. "They mostly keep to themselves."
Daniel McBride, spokesman for the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, said Sabir lived with Arleen Morgan, a registered nurse, and their two young sons.