A senior State Department official said Friday the U.S. expects Pakistan to deport five young Americans detained after they allegedly sought to join up with terrorist groups and left behind a video saying fellow Muslims must be defended.
While Pakistani officials have said the men admitted trying to connect with militant groups, an FBI note sent to American lawmakers said the bureau has "no information linking them to terrorist organizations."
The case has fanned fears that Americans and other Westerners especially those of Pakistani descent are traveling to Pakistan to join up with al Qaeda and other militant groups. It comes on the heels of charges against a Chicago man of Pakistani origin who is accused of surveying targets for the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India.
The State Department official said Friday that it is not yet clear whether the five men may have broken any Pakistani or U.S. laws during their stay in Pakistan. The five allegedly told local investigators they were trying to connect with al Qaeda-linked militant groups and intended to cross the border into Afghanistan and fight U.S. troops there.
The State Department official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the unfolding case.
The official confirmed that U.S. diplomats in Pakistanon Friday for a second time. Diplomatic security and FBI agents visited the men on Thursday. There was no immediate indication when the five might be returned to the United States.
A local police chief in Pakistan also said Friday the five will most likely be deported.
A Pakistani government official in Sargodha, who asked not to be identified, told CBS News' Sami Yousafzai that information obtained as a result of the Americans' arrest led to a subsequent raid in the city, during which key Jaish-e-Mohammed figure Qari Saeed was arrested.
Pakistan authorities say the men used the social networking site Facebook and the Internet video site YouTube to try to connect with extremist groups in Pakistan. When they arrived in Pakistan, they allegedly took that effort to the street.
They were reported missing by their families in the Washington area a week ago after one of them left behind a farewell video showing scenes of war and casualties and saying Muslims must be defended.
Pakistani police detained them this week along with one of their fathers in Sargodha, a town in the eastern province of Punjab.
Regional police chief Javed Islam said the men had yet to be charged with any crime but they would "most probably" be deported. He declined to say how long police could hold them before they were charged.
A senior government official in Punjab said the five were being questioned first, and the overall legal process could take weeks.
"They are under investigation. We need to establish their links," Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah told The Associated Press. "We are getting information that they had plans to travel to the tribal areas. We need to know which people they wanted to see and what their contacts were."
Amir Sherazi, a member of the team interrogating the men, said they were being questioned in five separate cells.
"They are in good health. They are eating," he said in a telephone interview.
One of the five men being held is identified as an Egyptian American named Ramy Zamzam, who is a dental student at Howard University in Washington.
The others were identified as Waqar Hussain, Aman Yamar, Ahmad Abdul Mimi, Umer Farooq and his father, Khalid Farooq. Pakistani officials have given various spellings of their names. The FBI note said two of the young men are of Ethiopian descent, and two are of Pakistani descent. The note was provided by a congressional official on condition of anonymity because it was not a public document.
Pakistan police officials say the elder Farooq had a computer business in the state of Virginia and shuttled between the U.S. and Pakistan. Investigators are still trying to establish what role if any he played in the men's alleged activities, officials said.
According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group that helped bring the case of the missing men to the FBI's attention, the five left the country at the end of November without telling their families.
After the young men left, at least one phoned his family still claiming to be in the United States, but the caller ID information suggested he was overseas.
Islam, the police official, said Thursday the five men wanted to join militants in Pakistan's tribal areas before crossing into Afghanistan. He said they met representatives from the al Qaeda-linked Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group in the southeastern city of Hyderabad and from a related group, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, in Lahore, but were turned away because they were not trusted.