ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Five young American men now detained in Pakistan had sought to fight a holy war against U.S. troops in Afghanistan and were in contact with an Islamic militant in the border region of Waziristan, a suspected al-Qaida sanctuary, Pakistani officials said Thursday.
The militant booked hotel rooms for the Americans in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, then broke off e-mail contact, possibly after learning that security agents were watching them, a senior Pakistani official said.
“These guys were actually planning to go to Afghanistan (to fight),” the official said.
The men, all residents of suburban Washington, D.C., included two Pakistani Americans, two Ethiopian Americans and an Egyptian American, the official said. Their families had reported them missing late last month.
A FBI special agent and two U.S. diplomatic security officials questioned the men Thursday in the jail in Sargodha, about 120 miles south of Islamabad. Police arrested them Wednesday in a raid on a home.
American officials declined to give details of the meeting or other aspects of the case. They emphasized that the five hadn’t yet been charged with a crime.
FBI investigators were also reviewing a video that featured one of the men and quoted passages from the Quran, the Muslim holy book, expressing anger for Muslims being victimized in conflicts overseas, according to Islamic leaders in the Washington area.
Usman Anwar, the police chief in Sargodha, told McClatchy Newspapers that the five men were seeking a link to an ultra-radical jihad group.
“It’s above Jaish. It’s something more serious than that,” Anwar said in a telephone interview, referring to Jaish-e-Mohammad, the group that has been implicated in the 2002 murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl.
“They came to Pakistan for the specific purpose of doing jihad (holy war) … They wanted to go to heaven, perhaps.”