The retired FBI agent who headed the Lackawanna Six investigation says Arafat M. Nagi was a vocal supporter of the six men who traveled to Afghanistan to train with the al-Qaida terrorist network.
“I believe he wanted to go along with them,” Peter J. Ahearn told The Buffalo News after Nagi’s arrest for being an alleged supporter of the ISIS terrorist group. “He was trying to reach out to the man who organized the trip, but he never did go with them. I don’t know why.”
Ahearn recalled that Nagi was actively investigated and interviewed by federal agents during the probe that led to the Lackawanna Six arrests in September 2002. He said he was “not really surprised” when he heard of Nagi’s arrest Wednesday.
“I think that he so much wanted to be a part of something like that. I think it led to what happened today,” Ahearn said hours after the arrest.
Nagi’s attorney, Jeremy D. Schwartz, said his client denies allegations that he tried to join ISIS or that he tried to recruit others. Nagi knew members of the Lackawanna Six, Schwartz said, but that was not a crime.
“He knew them, and I know that agents interviewed him,” Schwartz said. “A lot of people in Lackawanna knew those guys, and a lot of people were interviewed by the FBI. I am sure that if they had come up with any evidence of criminal activity by my client, they would have charged him with it.”
Ahearn, who now works as a security consultant in Virginia near Washington, D.C., said he remembers that Nagi was actually surprised that he was not arrested in the Lackawanna Six case.
“On the night we were out arresting people,” Nagi “walked up to one agent and said, ‘I think you’re looking for me,’ ” Ahearn said. “The agent came to me, and asked me about it, and I told him, ‘Tell him we are not looking for him. … I almost think he was disappointed.”
Six men were charged in the case, and all six eventually took guilty pleas and served federal prison terms. All six admitted that they traveled to Afghanistan to train with al-Qaida and that they met with the group’s leader, Osama bin Laden, who in 2011 was killed in a U.S. commando raid in Pakistan.