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US Terror Suspects Deny Al-Qaida Connection

The five young American men arrested on suspicion of terrorism in Pakistan last month say they were actually planning to travel to Afghanistan to help fellow Muslims.

Appearing in court on Monday, the men denied charges they made contact with al-Qaida or other militant groups and that they were planning attacks in Pakistan. Some said they wanted to provide medical supplies and financial aid to Afghans.

However, the Associated Press reports that as the men entered the courthouse in the eastern city of Sargodha, one of them said, "We are not terrorists...We are jihadists, and jihad is not terrorism."

The court ordered the men to be held another two weeks so police can have time to prepare their case. Police have alleged the men were trying to make contact with banned militant groups to launch a terrorist attack inside Pakistan.

Pakistani police have said they plan to ask the court to press terrorism charges, carrying life sentences.

The Americans, all from the Washington, DC area, were arrested at the home of a leader of the banned militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad (Army of the Prophet Muhammad) near Sargodha in early December. The group has ties to al-Qaida.

Police say the men used Internet sites to try to contact militants in Pakistan before traveling there from the U.S. in late November.

A U.S. civil rights group representing Muslims, the Council on American Islamic Relations, said the men made a "farewell video" with the message that Muslims must be defended.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.