Immigration Officials Confirm They Have a Suspected Terrorist in US Custody

Immigration Officials Confirm They Have a Suspected Terrorist in US Custody
In an aerial view, immigrants wait for transport and processing after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, on March 13, 2024. (John Moore/Getty Images)

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has confirmed that it does have a suspected Afghanistan terrorist in custody, but disputed an NBC report on Thursday that U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) initially released him knowing who he was.

“NBC’s assertion that CBP knowingly released an individual on the terrorist watchlist is inaccurate and entirely inconsistent with our practice at the border,” said a DHS spokesperson in an email late Friday to The Epoch Times. Several other media outlets ran stories based exclusively on the NBC report.

The DHS spokesperson said the report cannot be true because the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had no records on him at the time of his initial apprehension.

“At the time of the initial encounter, the information in the record could not have provided a conclusive match,” she said. “As soon as there was information to suggest that this individual was of concern, he was taken into custody by ICE.  Law enforcement has been tracking the matter closely to protect against public safety risks.”

The DHS official also confirmed that the alleged terrorist 48-year-old Afghanistani Mohammad Kharwin remains in U.S. custody and did not dispute his reported ties to the group Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), an offshoot of Hezb-e-Islam, which translates to the Party of Islam.

According to the National Counterterrorism Center, HIG is responsible for a number of terrorist attacks including the 2015 attacks in Kabul, one against a NATO convoy and another in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province, which claimed the life of a U.S. soldier.

In 2013, HIG members drove a car filled with explosives into a NATO convoy in Kabul, killing two U.S. soldiers, four U.S. civilian contractors, and eight Afghans including two children.

The DHS confirmed to The Epoch Times that Mr. Kharwin was initially apprehended last March in California after entering the U.S. illegally at the U.S.-Mexico border and was processed for release under ICE’s Alternatives to Detention program (ATD).

The program is described by ICE as one that ensures “compliance with release conditions and provides important case management services for non-detained noncitizens.”

ICE says a component of ATD called the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (ISAP) uses ” case management and technology tools to support noncitizens compliance with release conditions while on ICE’s non-detained docket.”

“ATD-ISAP also increases court appearance rates,” says ICE.

It adds, “ATD enables noncitizens to remain in their communities—contributing to their families and community organizations and, as appropriate, concluding their affairs in the U.S.—as they move through immigration proceedings or prepare for departure.”

NBC reported that Mr. Kharwin was already able to apply for work authorization in the United States and even flying on domestic flights for about a year after his initial catch and release when the FBI notified ICE that he was a member of a terrorist group.

The media outlet reported that ICE arrested Mr. Kharwin in February soon after, but did not disclose the suspicions about his terrorist ties at an immigration hearing, leading to his release a few days later as an asylum seeker. It reported that sources claimed the information was deliberately withheld because it was classified, which DHS disputed in its statement to The Epoch Times.

After NBC’s report was published, it was updated with the same DHS statement given to The Epoch Times.

Following the NBC report, The Center For Immigration Studies criticized both ICE and the Biden administration for Mr. Kharwin’s release.

“Had the Biden administration followed Congress’ directives, which require all illegal entrants to be detained until they are either admitted to the United States or removed, that wouldn’t have been a big deal regardless of whether Kharwin could be dispositively linked to terrorism or not,” the group wrote in a statement.

Last month, The Epoch Times reported on ICE’s arrest of a suspected member of the terrorist group Hezbollah after he was initially processed for entry into the United States.

It was only after Basel Bassel Ebbadi, a Lebanese national, volunteered his ties to the group that he was detained for questioning, according to a criminal complaint filed by Border Patrol agent Jose L. Benitez-Medina in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. The suspected terrorist said he was “here to make a bomb” and that he was highly trained back in his native country of Lebanon to “kill people who were not Muslim.”

He was apprehended around the same time as Mr. Kharwin.

Hezbollah has been found responsible for a number of large-scale terrorist attacks against the United States, including the deadly 1983 suicide truck bombings of the American Embassy and U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut. It has also planted bombs on buses and hijacked passenger airplanes around the world.

According to court documents, Mr. Ebbadi was also initially referred to the federal alternative detention program.

According to DHS, about 4.5 million “noncitizens” have been processed through the non-detainer program since July 2022.

From The Epoch Times

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