Pakistani Official Says 5 Americans Will Not Be Deported
Police say the men are being questioned about their ties to a local militant group linked to al-Qaida.
Last updated on: December 11, 2009 2:29 AM
Pakistan's interior minister says five young Americans arrested in Pakistan's Punjab province this week on suspicion of trying to join militant Islamist groups will not be immediately deported.
Rehman Malik says local officials will first determine if the men have violated any laws. He spoke at a Friday news conference.
The Reuters news agency quotes Sargodha police chief Usman Anwar as saying local officials have charged the men with violating what he described as Pakistan's "foreigners and cyber acts." Sarghoda is the town where the men were arrested.
Anwar says the men used "YouTube" and other Internet sites to try to contact militants in Pakistan before making the trip abroad. Local officials say the men claimed they traveled to the country to join a "jihad" or a holy war.
The men were arrested at the Sargodha home of a leader of the banned militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad (Army of the Prophet Mohammad). Officials say security officers seized items including computers and maps during a search of the home.
Earlier, news agencies quoted Pakistani and U.S. officials as saying the men were likely to be deported.
The FBI on Thursday confirmed the arrested men are from the Washington D.C. area, but that they are still working to verify their identities. An FBI statement said four of the men were found to have U.S. passports and there are ongoing discussions with Pakistani authorities about returning them to the United States.
On Wednesday, members of the Council on American Islamic Relations said the family of one of the men discovered a "farewell video" with the message that Muslims must be defended on his home computer. After the disappearance of the men, family members approached CAIR officials, who went to the FBI with the information.
Investigators believe the five had been in Sargodha since late November, and they are trying to determine if they had any connection to recent attacks in Punjab province.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.