ST. PAUL (AP) -- The wife of a Minnesota man charged in an alleged plot to provide weapons to the al-Qaida terror network said her husband loves America and told her he's innocent.
Zahida Ali said she learned her husband, Ilyas Ali, had been arrested in Hong Kong when the FBI arrived at her home Sept. 30 to search for drugs and weapons.
"I just wanted to die that day," Ali told the Star Tribune in her first interview since her husband's arrest.
Ilyas Ali is accused of plotting to sell drugs for missiles to aid the Taliban. His wife, Zahida, thought he had gone to Pakistan to work on their house and had taken a side trip to Hong Kong to sightsee, she said on Monday.
The United States is seeking Ilyas Ali's extradition from Hong Kong, where he is one of three men charged with trying to sell heroin and hashish to buy four shoulder-fired Stinger anti-aircraft missiles for al-Qaida. The al-Qaida link was provided by the suspects themselves, according to an indictment released Nov. 6.
In brief phone calls from Hong Kong, Zahida Ali said her husband told her that he's innocent.
"I guess I'm a traditional wife," she said, trusting that he is telling the truth and will return home.
She said the FBI did not find any drugs or weapons during their September search. A copy of the search warrant shows that agents seized a computer, financial records, appointment books, letters and overseas-travel documents, the Star Tribune reported in its Tuesday editions.
Zahida Ali said she knows of one trip that her husband made to San Diego sometime this year -- the city where authorities said Ilyas talked with undercover officers.
Through the years, Zahida Ali said her husband has worked hard for progress in his adopted country. "He loves America," she said. Both are U.S. citizens.
They were each born in 1947 in what was then British India and grew up in Pakistan. Their families arranged their marriage in Karachi in late 1984. A few months later, Zahida Ali moved to Minnesota to join her husband, who had been living in the Twin Cities area since at least 1980.
They opened a meat market and import clothing shop in St. Paul a few years and decided to build a small house in Karachi so Zahida Ali and her husband's elderly mother, who also lives in the Twin Cities, would have a warm place to go during Minnesota's winters.
Her husband traveled to Karachi to work on the house in late 1999. They sold the meat market and clothing shop last year and, Zahida Ali said, they have been traveling throughout Minnesota to inspect prospective businesses.
Zahida Ali said her husband left Sept. 3 to go to Pakistan to work on the new house.
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