Pakistan may deport 5 US men

Group allegedly sought jihad

By Chris Brummitt and Matthew Lee
Associated Press / December 12, 2009

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WASHINGTON - A senior State Department official said yesterday that the United States expects Pakistan to deport five Americans detained after they allegedly sought to join terrorist groups and left behind a video saying fellow Muslims must be defended.

While Pakistani officials have said the men admitted trying to connect with militant groups, an FBI note sent to American lawmakers said the bureau has “no information linking them to terrorist organizations.’’

The State Department official said yesterday that it is not yet clear whether the five men may have broken any Pakistani or US laws during their stay in Pakistan. The five allegedly told local investigators they were trying to connect with Al Qaeda-linked militant groups and intended to cross the border into Afghanistan and fight US troops there.

The State Department official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the unfolding case.

The official confirmed that US diplomats in Pakistan visited the detainees yesterday for a second time. Diplomatic security and FBI agents visited the men on Thursday. There was no immediate indication when the five might be returned to the United States.

A local police chief in Pakistan also said yesterday that the five will most likely be deported.

Pakistan authorities say the men used the social networking site Facebook and the Internet video site YouTube to try to connect with extremist groups in Pakistan. When they arrived in Pakistan, they allegedly took that effort to the street.

They were reported missing by their families in the Washington area a week ago after one of them left behind a farewell video showing scenes of war and casualties and saying Muslims must be defended.

Pakistani police detained them this week - along with one of their fathers - in Sargodha, a town in the eastern province of Punjab.

The case has fanned fears that Americans and other Westerners - especially those of Pakistani descent - are traveling to Pakistan to join Al Qaeda 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.

One of the five men being held is identified as an Egyptian American named Ramy Zamzam, a dental student at Howard University in Washington.

The others were identified as Waqar Hussain, Aman Yamar, Ahmad Abdul Mimi, and Umer Farooq and his father, Khalid Farooq. Pakistani officials have given various spellings of their names. The FBI note said two of the young men are of Ethiopian descent, and two are of Pakistani descent.

The note was provided by a congressional official on condition of anonymity because it was not a public document.

Pakistan police officials say the elder Farooq had a computer business in Virginia and shuttled between the US and Pakistan. Investigators are still trying to establish what role - if any - he played in the men’s alleged activities, officials said.

Meanwhile, the youth director at the mosque where the young men worshiped said they were wholesome young people who never exhibited any signs of religious extremism.

“I never observed any extreme behavior with them,’’ said Mustafa Abu Maryam, who was a volunteer youth director at the Islamic Circle of North America’s small chapter mosque. It’s in a converted single-family home in a residential neighborhood a few miles south of the Capital Beltway.

“I hope all of this is not true, and that this is not what it seems to be,’’ said Abu Maryam, who spoke yesterday at a news conference following the mosque’s midday prayer services. “I never became suspicious that they were planning to harm anyone.’’

Abu Maryam said youth activities at the mosque focused on keeping young people busy through sports and other activities. Religious discussions centered on basic issues, such as prayer and fasting.