Some chilling statements from the Tarik Shah case.
“Tapes Capture Bold Claims of Bronx Man in Terror Plot,” by Alan Feuer for the New York Times:
“You really want to learn how to rip somebody”s throat out?” Tarik Shah asked the man he thought was a terrorist. It was March 2004, and Mr. Shah did not know that the man was recording him for the government.
“I”m talking about damage to the inside so they drown on their own blood.”
Mr. Shah, a jazz musician and martial arts expert, demonstrated the move on the neck of his stand-up bass. “You give them internal bleeding,” he said. “It fills their lungs with blood.”
Mr. Shah, 44, was arrested two years ago by the F.B.I. and, with an old friend, Rafiq Sabir, a physician, charged in a plot to provide close-combat training and medical assistance to Al Qaeda. But in that time, few details emerged: His federal indictment laid out the charges in the sparest form, and hearings revealed little beyond his background as an American-born man raised in the Bronx.
Then, last month, Mr. Shah stood up in Federal District Court in Manhattan and pleaded guilty to conspiracy, ending the possibility of a public trial.
But now his story is being told in full “” and in striking detail “” at a different trial, Dr. Sabir’s. Charged with conspiracy, Dr. Sabir, an emergency room doctor with a Columbia University medical degree, is the only one of the four men eventually charged in the case to fight the accusations. Along with Mr. Shah, who faces 15 years in prison, two other men “” a paramedic from Washington and a Brooklyn bookseller “” have pleaded guilty.
They begin in fall 2003 as Saeed and Mr. Shah get to know each other over music and musings on Islam in which Mr. Shah starts to display an animosity toward the West. He speaks bitterly of paying “taxes to infidels.” He says the United States destroyed the “only Islamic government of Afghanistan.” He claims that Westerners “have been killing Muslims on a consistent basis for almost 200 years.”
“They have been at war with us,” he says, “which means we are at war with them.”
By the next month, Mr. Shah has confessed to Saeed that what he really wants is to open a martial arts studio where he can “teach the brothers.” As it happens, Saeed knows of a place: a warehouse in Long Island City, Queens. (Saeed, a drummer, claims he used to use the space for drum and dancing lessons, but the chilly concrete floors did not agree with his dancers” bare feet.)
A few days into the new year, Saeed approaches Mr. Shah with a new proposal: Some people he knows “” “a brother from Saudi” and another from Iran “” are looking for a self-defense expert. Would he like to meet them? Mr. Shah says yes, then makes his own proposal: He and Dr. Sabir can work together with the men in what Saeed will later call “a package deal.”
So Saeed and Mr. Shah take a train from Pennsylvania Station to Plattsburgh, in upstate New York, to meet a man named Ali, whom Mr. Shah believes is a terrorist recruiter. Ali’s full name is Ali Soufan and, in fact, he is an undercover agent for the F.B.I.
In Plattsburgh, the agent’s own hidden microphone records Mr. Shah talking about the racial profiling of Muslims, the “police state” and how he learned his martial arts from a fighter who took part in the riots in Malaysia in 1969. Mr. Shah proclaims himself an expert in a certain form of Filipino knife fighting. Yet when the agent asks if he has any questions “” adding this “is the real thing,” not a joke “” Mr. Shah seems to lose his composure.
“At this point no,” he says, “you, you, you, from already, from what I gather from what we”ve spoken about, you have done some traveling with the brothers, you have been different places, you have seen certain things.” Then he adds, “All I”ve done is listen.”
The two men take a walk, stopping at a store where a young girl smiles at Mr. Shah. He smiles back and tells the agent: “I could be joking and cutting their throats in the next second. It’s a strategy.” The agent then asks him to prepare a syllabus and video for a two-month self-defense class, reminding him to wear a ski mask while on camera “” “if the video, God forbid, fall in somebody”s hands.”
Finally, on May 19, 2005, Dr. Sabir flies in from Fort Lauderdale and meets Mr. Shah at Mr. Shah’s mother’s apartment on Grant Avenue, in the Bronx. The very next day, the agent comes to visit and promptly tells Dr. Sabir that Al Qaeda is badly hurting for medical personnel and that “Sheik Osama considers doctors our No. 1 resources.”
The agent is himself flying out that afternoon and before he leaves asks Mr. Shah and the doctor if they are willing to swear an oath of loyalty to Al Qaeda. The men agree to do so, and are picked up on the agent’s microphone repeating these words in Arabic:
“God’s pledge is upon me and so is his covenant to commit myself to the orders of the guardians of the agreement, for the misfortune and for the prosperity. And to be a loyalist to the path of jihad, and to my brothers, until God’s word is exalted. And to be protective of the secrecy of the oath and to the directives of Al Qaeda.”