Pakistani charged in U.S. over Taliban support denies link
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A Pakistani teenager wanted in the United States on charges of financing and supporting the Pakistani Taliban denied on Sunday any connection with the militants, saying his family was only helping victims of war.
Alam Zeb is the grandson of the imam of a Florida mosque who was arrested in the United States along with his two sons on Saturday. Also charged were three people in Pakistan: Zeb, his mother and a family friend.
"We are shocked, we are so worried," Zeb, 19, told Reuters by telephone from his village of Kabal in the Swat valley, 120 km (80 miles) northwest of the capital, Islamabad.
"We have nothing to do with the Taliban. These are baseless accusations."
The six were charged in a U.S. indictment that accused them of "supporting acts of murder, kidnapping and maiming in Pakistan and elsewhere" carried out by the Pakistani Taliban, which Washington calls a terrorist organization.
The indictment charged them with creating a network that transferred funds from the United States to Pakistani Taliban supporters and fighters in Pakistan, including for the purpose of buying arms.
If convicted, each faces up to 15 years in prison for each count of the indictment.
The charges were revealed as U.S. relations with Pakistan are strained over the U.S. raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on May 2.
Zeb said his grandfather, Pakistani-born American Hafiz Muhammed Sher Ali Khan, 76, had sent money back to Pakistan but only to help poor relatives rebuild their house, damaged in fighting in Swat between the army and Pakistani Taliban.
"Before arresting them they should have investigated where the money went," Zeb said of his grandfather and two uncles in the United States.
"My grandfather sent us money like anybody else who lives abroad but it was meant to help out a poor relative who lost his house and business," he said.
Some money also went to the renovation of a madrassa, or religious school, he said.
Zeb said Pakistani authorities had not contacted him or his mother, Amina Khan, or Ali Rehman, a friend of his grandfather.
The army launched an offensive in the Swat valley, a one-time tourist valley, in 2009 to clear out militants who had taken over the area. Zeb said his family had left to escape the fighting.
"Taliban could have lived here, I don't know because we left ... When we were here there were no militants," said Zeb, who goes to a college in Swat.
Pakistani officials said they had not received any U.S. request for helping in tracking down the three suspects in Pakistan.
Pakistan's parliament on Saturday condemned the secret U.S. raid that killed bin Laden as a violation of sovereignty and called for a review of relations with the United States.
(Editing by Robert Birsel)
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