- The Washington Times - Friday, December 11, 2009

SARGODHA, Pakistan | Five young American Muslims arrested in Pakistan met with representatives of an al Qaeda-linked group and asked for training but were turned down because they lacked references from trusted militants, a Pakistani law enforcement official said Thursday.

Another senior officer said the men wanted to fight jihad, or holy war, in northwestern Pakistan and against American troops in Afghanistan.

The young men apparently first tried to contact jihadist groups through Facebook and YouTube, then traveled to Pakistan to attempt personal meetings, a Pakistani diplomat in Washington said.

U.S. officials in Pakistan have visited the men in custody. Their disappearance from the Washington area late last month - with one of them leaving behind a militaristic farewell video saying Muslims must be defended - prompted a frantic search by friends and family and an investigation by worried counterterrorism officials.

Javed Islam, a regional police chief in Pakistan, said the men wanted to join Islamic militants in the country’s tribal area before crossing into Afghanistan and said they met with a banned organization, Jaish-e-Mohammed in Hyderabad, and with representatives of a related group, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, in Lahore.

He said the arrested Americans had spent the past few days in Sargodha, 125 miles south of the capital, Islamabad, before their arrest.

The men used the social networking site Facebook and the Internet video site YouTube to try to connect with extremist groups in Pakistan, said S.M. Imran Gardezi, the press minister at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington.

Local Pakistanis became suspicious of the young men and tipped off police, he said. Police arrested the group in a home belonging to the uncle of one of the men. Mr. Gardezi said the uncle had past ties to extremist groups.

Mr. Gardezi said that the men have not been turned over to the FBI and that Pakistan intended to carry out its own legal process.

The men range in age from 19 to 25. Three of the arrested Americans are of Pakistani descent, one is of Egyptian descent and the other has Yemeni origins, Pakistani police officer Tahir Gujjar said.

One, Ramy Zamzam, is a dental student at Howard University. Officer Gujjar identified three of the others under arrest as Eman Yasir, Waqar Hasan and Umer Farooq.

The fifth young man was identified as Ahmed Mimi by a Pakistani government official in Washington.

Mr. Farooq’s father, Khalid Farooq, also was detained. Pakistan police officials say the elder Mr. Farooq had a computer business in Virginia and shuttled between the U.S. and Pakistan.

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