Photo: Family Photo
Houston-born Asher Khan at 18 appeared to be the embodiment of the ISIS wannabe. He and a friend who had converted to Islam made plans to travel the ISIS "boot camp" in Syria. His friend did end up there, but Khan returned from Turkey purportedly after being tricked by his family to return home to deal with a seriously ill mother. Khan was arrested and charged with engaging in a conspiracy to help a terrorist organization. Houston-born Asher Khan at 18 appeared to be the embodiment of the...
A college student from Spring pleaded guilty on Monday to plotting to join ISIS in Syria in a case that dates to the earliest American news reports about the terrorist group.
Asher Abid Khan, 23, admitted in a Houston courtroom that he conspired with others and attempted to provide "material support" to a foreign terrorist organization. The mechanical engineering student at the University of Houston ultimately ditched his plan en route to joining jihadist forces, but continued to talk of becoming a martyr after he returned home.
U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes set sentencing for March 5. Khan remains free on bond.
He is the fifth person in Texas to plead guilty to attempting to provide support for ISIS. An unrelated defendant, Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, 25, of Houston, pleaded guilty last year to providing material support to ISIS and is due for sentencing later this month..
According the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, 147 people have been charged in the U.S. with involvement in ISIS and 89 have pleaded guilty or been convicted. The vast majority are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
FBI investigators tracked the Klein Oak High School graduate on Facebook saying he wanted to join the violent jihadist network. According to court documents, he traveled to Turkey with plans to enlist in Syria, but he changed his mind after a phone call home in which relatives invented a family emergency to get him to return home.
Michelle Bandur reports.
Khan was indicted in May 2015 for attempting to join ISIS with a friend from high school who he knew from the same local mosque.
Prosecutors said in court filings that Khan was living with relatives in Australia when he exchanged Facebook messages with the friend, Sixto Ramiro Garcia, a Muslim convert. They chatted about their shared faith in the Islamic caliphate and their desire to dedicate their lives to something bigger than themselves.
In early 2014, Khan suggested they head to Iraq or Syria, according to court documents.
Khan is accused of helping Garcia, who was using the name Abdullah Ali, arrange a flight out of Houston and helping him through Facebook connect with a man agents called "a foreign terrorist fighter facilitator" in Turkey. Khan traveled from Australia, but his family persuaded him during a stopover to return to Houston telling him falsely that his mother had been hospitalized.
Khan communicated with Garcia, a.k.a., Ali, so he could find their contact, Mohammad, near the Syrian border, and promising that he'd come later, according to investigators.
An FBI agent testified at a previous hearing that once he returned to Spring, Khan continued to chat online with friends about his support for ISIS and his wish to die as a martyr.
Investigators believe Khan's hometown buddy, Garcia, went through ISIS boot camp. On Christmas Day 2014, the agent said, someone used Garcia's Facebook account to tell family members he had died for ISIS. Federal agents say they learned of Khan through Garcia's account.
Gabrielle Banks covers federal court for the Houston Chronicle. Follow her on Twitter and send news tips at email@example.com....Read more