Saturday, December 12, 2009

What Were 5 American Men Doing At Jihadist House In Pakistan?

Justin Elliott | December 10, 2009, 10:30AM

Five young men from Northern Virginia have been arrested in Pakistan in a house with links to a militant group, but they have not been charged with a crime and details of what they were doing are still hard to come by. But the case is already being cited as the latest example in an emerging trend of radicalization of American Muslims who travel overseas and link up with foreign terrorist groups.

Here's the basic outlines of the story, as it has been reported so far: five American Muslim men, ranging in age from their late teens to mid-20s, flew to Pakistan earlier this month and, after bouncing around several cities, ended up in a house in Sargodha, in Punjab Province. The owner of the house where they were arrested reportedly has ties to the group Jaish-e-Muhammad, considered a terrorist organization by the United States.

The worried families of the men, one of whom, Ramy Zamzam, is a Howard University dental student, earlier this month contacted the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which in turn put them in touch with the FBI.

A video made by one of the men quoted the Koran and "cited conflicts between Western and Muslim nations and showed wartime footage," according to the Washington Post. But unidentified law enforcement also told the paper they had no evidence the video was meant as a farewell. CAIR's executive director, Nihad Awad, said the video was "disturbing" and it "made references to the ongoing conflicts in the world and that a Muslim has to do something about them."

The men have not been charged with a crime, though they are reportedly being interrogated by Pakistani authorities.

McClatchy notes this is the third time in recent months Americans with links to Pakistan have been arrested over possible connections to terrorist groups. Najibullah Zazi of Denver, who allegedly received weapons training in Pakistan, was indicted in September for allegedly planning to set off bombs in the U.S. And, in the third case, David Headley was charged this week with helping a Pakistani terrorist group plot the attacks on Mumbai last year.

Spencer Ackerman notes that several Obama officials have addressed the issue of "domestic radicalization" in recent days.

CAIR, for its part, said at a press conference in Washington it will work to counter radicalization among American Muslims. The Times reports:

But Mr. Awad, who said he had seen the video, and the other leaders said that the case -- along with the recent recruitment of young Somali-American men in Minnesota by a violent group in Somalia -- suggested that at least a small number young American Muslims were drawn to extremist views. They pledged to start a nationwide campaign to counter such attitudes.

Late Update: A local Pakistani police official is now telling the media the men were committed to jihad. The Times cites Pakistani officials saying the men wanted to fight U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

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