Friday, December 11, 2009

ISLAMABAD — Five young American Muslims detained in Pakistan over alleged terrorist links are most likely to be deported, a local police chief said Friday.

The men have allegedly told investigators they tried to connect with al Qaeda-linked militant groups in Pakistan and were intending to cross the border into Afghanistan and fight U.S. troops there.

They were reported missing by their families in the Washington D.C. area a week ago after one of them left behind a militaristic farewell video saying Muslims must be defended. Pakistani police detained them this week — along with one of their fathers — in the town of Sargodha in eastern Pakistan.

Regional police chief Javed Islam said the men had yet to be charged with any crime but they would “most probably” be deported. He declined to say how long police could hold them before they were charged.

U.S. officials, including some from the FBI, have visited the men in custody.

The case has fanned fears that Americans and other Westerns — especially those of Pakistani descent — are traveling to Pakistan to join up with al-Qaida and other militant groups. It comes on the heels of charges against a Chicago man of Pakistani origin who is accused of surveying targets for the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India.

Police have said those detained included three Pakistani Americans, two Ethiopian Americans and an Egyptian American who is a dental student at Howard University.

Islam said Thursday the five young men wanted to join militants in Pakistan’s tribal area before crossing into Afghanistan to take part in jihad, or holy war. He said they met representatives from the al Qaeda-linked Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group in the southeastern city of Hyderabad and from a related group, Jamat-ud-Dawa, in Lahore but were turned away because they were not trusted, he said.

In August, police arrested a group of foreigners, including a Swede who had spent time in Guantanamo Bay prison camp, close to the Afghan border region and publicly accused them of al Qaeda links. They were held for over a month before being released and put on a plane out of the country.

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