In Islamabad, an anti-terrorist court charged five Americans from Washington area with plotting terrorism. The five were arrested in December on allegations of attempt to link to al Qaeda. The men, all students, face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. All have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
As Pakistani law enforcement officials began questioning the group from a multiethnic, working-class enclave in Virginia, investigators sought more information about a suspected Pakistani militant they knew only as Saifullah.
Investigators believe that Saifullah recruited the Americans, some of whom were college students, through an exchange of emails in late summer and the fall. Saifullah then tried to arrange for them to head to Pakistan’s tribal areas along the Afghan border, sanctuaries for the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaida.
Note: this summary was taken directly from the article (linked to above) in the Los Angeles Times.
Police raided a hotel where the five American would-be jihadists stayed upon arrival in Pakistan. They recovered a mobile phone and five bags, but no major clues were discovered.
There has been speculation about Pakistan deporting the men, but no plans to send them back the US are currently in place. They cannot be handed over to the FBI without permission of the Lahore High Court.
The Americans attempted to contact a jihad group in Pakistan through the internet, and traveled to the country to train for jihad. They have not been charged.
In the years since 9/11 no further terrorist attacks have occurred, and the American war on terror was partly predicated upon the idea that fighting terrorism abroad will prevent fighting it at home. But a recent string of terrorism arrests is challenging the idea that American soil is immune to homegrown radicalism. The Obama Administration this week conceded that the US now faces a rising threat of homegrown radicalism.
This raises a new question: are Muslims in the US really more assimilated and less prone to extremism than European Muslims?
Bruce Hoffman, Georgetown University terrorism expert says “it is myopic to believe we could insulate ourselves from the currents affecting Muslims everywhere else.”
Five US nationals from the Washington DC area were detained in Pakistan; officials believe the men had hoped to receive training at a jihadist camp and launch attacks against US forces. The men are in their early 20s and went missing in November.
The men told interrogators that they were “for jihad” and that they were planning to launch jihad “against infidel US forces, wherever they are.”
The FBI is working with Pakistani authorities to determine the activities of the men. Investigations are underway.
Following information given to them by the FBI, Pakistani authorities began tracking the men in November as they traveled in Pakistan. They allegedly went to Hyderabad and then to Sargodha, where they were apprehended.
The men have suspected ties to Jaish-e-Mohammed, an al-Qaida-funded group associated with the killing of American journalist Daniel Pearl and assasination attempts of Pervez Musharraf.
Police believe they made contact with Jaish-e-Mohammed via YouTube.