The trial of a former New York City Uber driver who tried to join the Taliban began on Wednesday. Prosecutors allege that he planned to travel to Afghanistan and “kill Americans” before he was apprehended at John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2019.
Delowar Mohammed Hossain, 36, faces terrorism charges over his alleged plot to join the radical Islamist group – a venture that prosecutors say he spent a year planning. Specifically, he is charged with attempting to provide material support for terrorism and attempting to make or receive a contribution to the Taliban.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Schrier said during opening statements that Hossain “wasn’t just any other traveler — he was on a mission to Afghanistan to join the Taliban and kill Americans and he was on his way.”
Hossain’s attorney, Andrew Dalack, contends he was just a “wannabe playboy” who decided to leave his wife and family in order fly to Thailand and meet girls. He painted the would-be terrorist as a man upset by his financial situation and family life who simply wanted to sow his wild oats in the hedonistic country of Thailand.
Prosecutor Schrier said Hossain planned to go from Thailand to Afghanistan and he had already bought supplies to survive in the bleak country.
Dalack argued in his remarks that Hossain’s bag was stocked with lotion and perfumes, plus around a dozen pairs of designer jeans and t-shirts he planned to gift to women in both Thailand and Bangladesh, the latter country being where he allegedly fell in love at least once.
“These are items of a wannabe playboy,” the defense attorney said.
Dalack alleged furthermore that on the day before he was arrested, Hossain asked one of his alleged terror cohorts — who was actually working undercover for the FBI — to acquire extra hair gel, condoms and lubricant before he left.
Hossain was found with $10,000 in cash at the airport and had evidently ordered other supplies he needed to survive in rural Afghanistan, where the Taliban was working towards an overthrow of the normalized government at the time.
During the opening statements on Wednesday, Schrier alleged that Hossain had studied al-Qaeda literature to learn the techniques of bomb-making and the furtherance of religious warfare, only deciding against the ideation of bombing a New York military installation because he didn’t think he could kill enough people, the outlet said.
He added that prosecutors have a recording of him saying he wanted to kill Americans.
Prosecutors also contend that Hossain tried to throw off investigators by frequenting bars and strip clubs – impermissible for a strict Muslim – and that he engaged in an elaborate ruse, even encouraging the informants to “get dirty” with forbidden Muslim behavior themselves in order to fool law enforcement.
But Dalack claimed his client was merely a “hypocritical” Muslim with a “wild imagination.”
“It was the warrior act that was the cover story,” he surmised.
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