Teen Terror Suspect Lived in Home of Philly Lawyer Who Just Ran for Judge

"You wanna find out what I'm really about?" attorney Qawi Abdul-Rahman said when we asked him about the arrest. "Text or call me one more time, and you'll find out what I'm really about."

Philadelphia lawyer Qawi Abdul-Rahman, whose home was raided by the FBI on Friday, resulting in the arrest of a 17-year-old on terrorism charges.

Philadelphia lawyer Qawi Abdul-Rahman, whose home was raided by the FBI on Friday, resulting in the arrest of a 17-year-old on terrorism charges (Image via Rahman for Judge campaign video)

On Monday, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and the FBI announced that police arrested a 17-year-old from West Philadelphia on Friday, charging him with crimes stemming from a terrorism investigation. I had been aware of the arrest since right after it happened, because I encountered major roadblocks around the 17-year-old’s house when I happened to be out running errands in his neighborhood. The FBI spent hours searching the property, removing box after box of evidence.

The home in question is the residence of Qawi Abdul-Rahman, a Center City criminal defense attorney who ran for Common Pleas Court judge this year but lost. When I reached him by phone on Sunday, Abdul-Rahman said he had no comment about the search of his home because it was an “open matter.”

By that time, says Philadelphia attorney Michael Coard, who isn’t involved in the case, word of the arrest had already circulated among the local legal community.

“I first heard on Saturday at an event where a few dozen judges and lawyers were present,” Coard tells me.

Prosecutors haven’t released the name of the terrorism suspect. As Krasner stated at the Monday press conference, it’s the policy of the DA’s office to withhold the names of any juveniles charged as such. But he’s now seeking to charge the juvenile as an adult, in which case his name would become a matter of public record.

Several sources have alleged that the person arrested is the son of Abdul-Rahman. On Monday, just after the press conference, I asked Abdul-Rahman via text if the person arrested is, indeed, his son. He called me right away. “You wanna find out what I’m really about?” he told me. “Text or call me one more time, and you’ll find out what I’m really about.”

Krasner has charged the juvenile with weapons of mass destruction offenses, criminal conspiracy, arson, causing or risking catastrophe, attempt to commit criminal mischief, possession of an instrument of crime, and recklessly endangering another person.

The investigation began in March, when the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force allegedly found communications between the Syrian-based terrorist group Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad and the juvenile on Instagram. On August 6th, claim prosecutors, he changed his WhatsApp profile photo to an image of the ISIS banner. Krasner’s office says the juvenile received messages telling him how to build IEDs and that on August 7th, an FBI surveillance team observed him buying some of the items needed to build IEDs, along with tactical gear. The next day, U.S. Customs and Border Protection revealed to the FBI that more than a dozen international shipments of military and tactical gear had been sent to the juvenile’s home.

“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,” Krasner said in a statement. “The charges we have filed against this individual represent the most serious alleged terrorist activity prosecuted in Philadelphia County court in recent history. 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.”