5 missing Americans arrested in Pakistan

WASHINGTON — Five young American Muslims captured in Pakistan are under investigation for possible links to terrorism after their families found a disturbing farewell video the missing men left behind showing scenes of war and casualties and saying Muslims must be defended.

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Frantic relatives and worried FBI agents have been searching for the five men for more than a week, since their disappearance in late November. The missing men, ranging in age from 19 to 25, have family roots in the northern Virginia and Washington area.

Leaders of an Islamic American group said the families of the five men asked the FBI for help and were particularly disturbed to see the video message.

"One person appeared in that video, and they made references to the ongoing conflict in the world, and that young Muslims have to do something," said Nihad Awad of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR.

"The video's about 11 minutes and it's like a farewell. And they did not specify what they would be doing. But just hearing and seeing videos similar on the Internet, it just made me uncomfortable," Awad said.

The video has not been made public.

Before the men left, they did not seem to have become militant. "From all of our interviews, there was no sign they were outwardly radicalized," said Imam Johari Abdul-Malik.

In Pakistan, police officer Tahir Gujjar said five Americans were picked up in a raid on a house in Sarghoda in the eastern province of Punjab. He did not identify them, but said three are of Pakistani descent, one is of Egyptian descent and the other has Yemeni heritage.

S.M. Imran Gardezi, press minister at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, said the men "are under arrest in Pakistan. The investigation is to see whether they had any links to any extremist groups."

No charges have been filed.

"The FBI is working with the families and local law enforcement to investigate the missing students and is aware of the individuals arrested in Pakistan," FBI spokeswoman Katherine Schweit said. "We are working with Pakistan authorities to determine their identities and the nature of their business there if indeed these are the students who had gone missing."

5 missing Americans arrested in Pakistan 12/09/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 9, 2009 11:12pm]

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