Pennsylvania couple who gave relatives money to join ISIS sentenced to prison

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Pennsylvania couple who gave relatives money to join ISIS sentenced to prison

A Pennsylvania couple has been sentenced to federal prison after they sent thousands of dollars to two relatives to travel to Syria to join ISIS.

Shahidul Gaffar, 40, and Nabila Khan, 35, originally from Bangladesh, admitted to sending nearly $5,600 to Khan’s brothers in the South Asian country prior to them traveling to Syria in early 2015, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The pair was sentenced Thursday to 18 months and two years in prison, respectively, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Gaffar, a naturalized citizen who has lived in the US for 26 years, insisted he didn’t hate America and successfully ran restaurants in Montgomery County.

“God bless America, God bless the United States,” Gaffar told District Judge Joshua Wolson.

An ISIS fighter waving a flag while standing on captured government fighter jet in Raqqa, Syria in 2015.
An ISIS fighter waves a flag while standing on captured government fighter jet in Raqqa, Syria in 2015.
Universal Images Group via Getty

Khan, a legal permanent resident, insisted she and her husband gave her brothers the funds out of love for family rather than loyalty to the militant group or its violent ideology.

“I’m really sorry about everything I did,” an emotional Khan told Wolson. “It has cost my family a lot.”

One of Khan’s brothers, Ibrahim Khan, was later killed while fighting in Syria in 2019. Khan’s second brother, Junaid Hasan Khan, remains missing and is presumed dead, the Inquirer reported.

Both had identified themselves in social media posts as ISIS fighters, federal prosecutors said.

Khan told Wolson she flew with her children to Bangladesh to be with her family when Junaid Hasan Khan started talking about going to Syria.

Ibrahim Khan was living with Gaffar in Pennsylvania at the time while attending school in New York on a student visa, the Inquirer reported.

But Ibrahim returned to Bangladesh and also began talking about joining ISIS after breaking up with a woman, the couple said.

Gaffar insisted the money he sent to South Asia was primarily intended to support his wife, but Ibrahim pressured her to instead hand it over, according to the report.

“The thought process was: Since we’ve already lost one brother, let’s not lose another,” Gaffar said.

“We tried to solve our own problem. This is why I didn’t go to the police here … We thought we could handle it ourselves.”

Wolson rejected the couple’s request that they be sentenced to house arrest, but staggered the start of their sentences to avoid leaving their four children ranging in age from 3 to 13 without a guardian.

“We can’t dream of anything,” the couple’s eldest daughter wrote in a letter to Wolson. “The vision is blurry.”

But authorities said Gaffar and Khan contributed to the coffers and manpower of ISIS — the “lifeblood” of the terror group — with their actions.

“Gaffar and Khan, while enjoying all the rights and privileges of living in America, conspired to support violent extremists who consider our country their sworn enemy,” FBI Philadelphia Acting Special Agent in Charge Bradley Benavides said.

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