Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pakistani Officials: Northern VA Men Had Contacted Radical Groups

Via Washington Post -

The five men from Northern Virginia arrested in Pakistan had contacted radical jihadist organizations in that country, including two terrorist groups with links to al-Qaeda, and had maps and videos suggesting that they intended to train to fight U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Pakistani officials said Thursday.

"They are proudly saying, 'We are here for jihad,' " said Usman Anwar, the Pakistani police chief whose officers interrogated the men. All are Muslims from the Alexandria area. He said police recovered jihadist literature, laptop computers and maps of different parts of Pakistan when the men were arrested near Lahore on Tuesday. The maps included areas where the Taliban train.

Pakistani officials said the men had contacts with Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Jangvi, both of which have been banned in Pakistan and branded terrorist organizations by the U.S. government. The men first made contact with those organizations by e-mail in August, officials said. Apparently, the organizations rejected their overtures.

The men are being questioned by the FBI in Pakistan.


Pakistani officials said the men were highly secretive and used only e-mail to contact each other. They saved their e-mails in draft form and used secret passwords to read them before deleting without sending them, officials said.

Communicating via saved e-mail messages in accounts to which multiple people had passwords is a tactic commonly employed by al-Qaeda, terrorism experts said. The method has been employed by several accused plotters, including sleeper agent Ali al-Marri, terrorism experts said.


The men were taken into custody at the home of an activist affiliated with a radical group that has been banned by the Pakistani government, an official at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington said. A second Pakistani official said the group is Jaish-e-Mohammed, which is widely suspected to be behind the abduction and killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002.


The Americans were picked up in a raid on a house in the eastern province of Punjab. They were being questioned at a police station near Lahore in what the Pakistani Embassy official described as a two- to three-day "preliminary investigation" to decide whether the men have terrorist ties and whether charges should be filed.

Jaish-e-Mohammed has been banned by the Pakistani government since 2002, a year after the group was implicated in the December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament in New Delhi. The Bush administration put it on the U.S. government's list of terrorist organizations in 2002.

Muslim leaders said at a news conference Wednesday that they would launch an education campaign to address what they acknowledged is a problem with extremist views in a small segment of their community.

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