Pakistani officials say five American men arrested in Pakistan recently are being investigated for alleged links to extremist groups. Family members and U.S. authorities have been searching for five missing U.S. students from the Washington, D.C. area since their disappearance in late November.
Pakistani police say the men were detained during a raid on the home of a local leader of the banned militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad, in Pakistan's Punjab province. Authorities are trying to determine if the men are linked to recent attacks in the region, although no charges have yet been filed.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation says it is in contact with the families of the five men and is working with Pakistani authorities to determine their identities, the nature of their business in Pakistan, and if indeed the men are the students who went missing late last month.
In Washington, officials with the Council on American Islamic Relations said the five were Muslims who had disappeared from their homes in Northern Virginia. CAIR's Executive Director, Nihad Awad, told reporters the students' families contacted the Muslim organization after their sons went missing. Awad said relatives brought along what authorities are calling a farewell video.
U.S. officials said in that video the men said Muslims must be defended.
"They did not specify what they will be doing, but just hearing and seeing videos similar [to what is] on the Internet, it just made me uncomfortable," said Awad.
CAIR then contacted the FBI and handed over the video and information to U.S. authorities. Imam Johari Abdul-Malik is member of the Coordinating Council of Muslim Organizations and spoke alongside CAIR officials at a press briefing on Wednesday.
"As a result of our coordinated and cooperative engagement that these young people are not at large," he said. "We can feel hopeful that whatever was going to happen, which we don't know what it was, that we can rest assured that at least these young people hopefully will be back in the United States."
A U.S. State Department spokesman said Wednesday the U.S. embassy in Islamabad was seeking further information about those detained in Pakistan.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declined to comment about the arrests but said the United States was concerned about the work of extremists groups in Pakistan.
"We know that much of the training and the direction for terrorists comes from Pakistan and the border area with Afghanistan," said Clinton.
The arrests came as a Pakistani-American, David Headley, pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges in a U.S. court in Chicago on Wednesday. Headly, who was was arrested in October, is accused of planning a 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai,India that killed more than 160 people.