Pakistan Arrests Five Americans, Terror Link Probed
December 10, 2009
WASHINGTON (RFE/RL) -- U.S. and Pakistani officials say five foreign nationals have been arrested in Pakistan and are being investigated for possible links to extremist groups.
Reports suggest that they are the same five American men who have been missing from the Washington, D.C., area since last month.
Pakistani police officer Tahir Gujjar said the men were picked up on December 8 in a raid on a house in Sarghoda in the eastern province of Punjab. He added that three of the men are of Pakistani descent, one is of Egyptian descent, and the other is of Yemeni heritage.
A spokesman at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, Imran Gardezi, said the five men are students from northern Virginia.
Two U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment on the case told The Associated Press that one of the missing young men had left a farewell video that showed American casualties and said Muslims must be defended.
The FBI, which has been searching for the men since their families reported them missing, said it is in contact with the families as well as law-enforcement authorities in Pakistan.
In a statement, the law enforcement agency said it is "working with Pakistan authorities to determine their identities and the nature of their business there, if indeed these are the students who had gone missing."
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad is trying to confirm whether the five young men are U.S. nationals and if they are, what charges the Pakistani government is considering.
"We've contacted our embassy in Islamabad and they are seeking further information,” Kelly said. “I think that we need to get those kinds of details about the identity of these five individuals."
Kelly said the embassy will be seeking information on the possible charges and trying to arrange a meeting.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declined to comment when asked about the arrests, but said the United States remains concerned about the work of extremist groups in Pakistan.
Pakistan has many militant groups based on its territory, and the United States has been pressing the government to crack down on extremism. Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants are believed to be hiding in safe havens in lawless tribal areas near the Afghan border.
News of the five students came as a Chicago man with Pakistani roots who has been accused of scouting targets for the 2008 Mumbai attacks in India pleaded not guilty at his first court appearance.
with agency reports
Copyright (c) 2009. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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