A prominent Philadelphia criminal defense attorney has confirmed that the terror suspect arrested by the FBI in an armed raid on his suburban home Monday is his 17-year-old son.
Qawi Abdul-Rahman, 50, told The Daily Beast that he was “shocked and devastated” by the arrest of the teenager, who has been charged with arson, criminal conspiracy, weapons of mass destruction, and risking catastrophe, among other accusations.
“I didn’t see it coming at all. At all,” Abdul-Rahman, who recently campaigned to be a Common Pleas Court judge in Pennsylvania, told The Daily Beast. “I go to court because I want people to know that Muslims are out here doing things in the community, for the community. I’m an American like everyone else.”
A press release from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office described the charges against the teenager, who has not been named, as “the most serious alleged terrorist activity prosecuted in Philadelphia County court in recent history.”
“The work of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force potentially thwarted a catastrophic terrorist attack in the name of a perverted ideology that in no way, shape, or form represents the beliefs of the overwhelming majority of peace-seeking people of faith, including Muslims,” the memo said. “We intend to pursue full accountability for these crimes and will continue to work vigilantly with our law enforcement partners to protect all of our communities from hateful, ideologically driven acts of violence.”
Speaking about the raid, the Philadelphia lawyer told The Daily Beast he was at work when he got a call from one of his children, who alerted him about the ongoing raid. He said that neither he nor his wife were home at the time—only the teenager and two of his siblings—all of whom are minors.
“That was the horrible part… This is a family neighborhood. I was at work, I was nowhere near the house. Just the children. It’s amazing. A man and two girls. Children. Everyone was terrified. I talked to them when it was happening and I rushed from work to here [home],” he said.
Footage of the raid captured by local TV networks show two armored vehicles surrounding the home as armed FBI SWAT agents stood nearby. The suspect was brought out in “his underwear” according to one resident who spoke to 6 ABC Action News, after which agents were spotted moving boxes out the residence.
“The degree of the response, again I was out when it happened, but seeing the pictures, they had armored vehicles and so forth. Seems like the FBI was preparing to experience some violent response or something,” one neighbor told the network.
FBI Philadelphia and the District Attorney’s Office declined to provide further comment about the investigation and arrest when contacted by The Daily Beast.
“It’s truly amazing. I deal with people all day every day, but until you have the shoe on your foot, it’s hard to really talk about it,” Abdul-Rahman said.
A memo released by the District Attorney’s Office alleges that the teenager had been in contact with Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad (KTJ)–a Syria-based extremist group designated by the U.S. State Department as global terrorists–through social media. In addition to other deadly attacks, the group has been accused of the 2017 metro bombing in St. Petersburg, Russia, that killed 15 people.
“Investigators with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force were able to connect a Meta (aka Instagram) social media account that communicated with an account affiliated with KTJ in March and April of 2023 to the juvenile. A WhatsApp account linked to the juvenile’s phone number was also found by investigators to have a banner of Riyad-us-Saliheen Martyrs’ Brigade, a Chechnya-based terrorist group, as its profile photo. On August 6, according to the Task Force, the juvenile’s WhatsApp profile photo was changed to the image of the ISIS banner.”
Among other specific allegations, the District Attorney’s Office claims the teenager “received messages related to construction of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and to have purchased materials online such as chemical cleaners that are used to construct IEDs, as well as outdoor or tactical gear.” The statement adds that on Aug. 7, “FBI special agents surveilled the juvenile and observed him purchasing materials” that can be used to make bombs.
A day later, according to the press release, “U.S. Customs and Border Protection provided records revealing 14 international shipments of military and tactical gear to the juvenile’s address.”
“The young man who is under arrest… was an aspiring terrorist who was not merely thinking but was doing things that are deeply disturbing and presented a grave danger to everyone,” Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said at a press conference Monday.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Jacqueline Maguire added: “I think it’s very fair to say that lives were saved because of this investigation.”
The suspect’s father, meanwhile, is still grappling with the shock of the events that unfolded this week. Speaking with The Daily Beast, he said he was struggling to discuss the incident with his two children who were in the home at the time of the raid.
“I’m not a psychiatrist, so I don’t know how to even address it,” he said. “This is the stuff you can’t talk about… to a child, you can’t explain. Your job as a father is to protect. But I couldn’t do a thing.”