Official: U.S. thinks 5 men were smuggled into country
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. government officials believe that five men wanted for questioning by the FBI for illegally entering the United States were smuggled into the country, a Bush administration source said.
The official said a search of records from U.S.-Canadian border crossings has found no trace of the five.
The names of the men came to light during Canadian authorities' interrogation of a man they picked up on suspicion of smuggling illegal aliens into the United States.
The official said the administration believes the five traveled from Pakistan to Britain, then on to Canada. They are believed to have crossed into upstate New York from Canada with fake British passports on or around December 24.
None of the five men is known to have a criminal record or ties to known terrorist organizations.
The FBI has identified them as Abid Noraiz Ali, 25; Iftikhar Khozmai Ali, 21; Mustafa Khan Owasi, 33; Adil Pervez, 19; and Akbar Jamal, 28. An FBI statement said those names and ages may be fictitious.
The bureau said the five men are wanted for questioning "based on information developed in the course of ongoing investigations."
The FBI said finding the five men is a top priority. Their pictures have been released to the public and 18,000 law enforcement agencies around the country.
Authorities also want to question 14 other people believed to have entered the United States illegally around the same time, a law enforcement source said Tuesday.
In a related development, a 30-year-old jeweler in Lahore, Pakistan, said his photo was used without his knowledge to depict the likeness of one of the five men authorities are seeking. He has never been to the United States before, he said. (Full story)
Terrorism sweeps in 2 states
Authorities conducted raids in New York and Connecticut as part of the FBI manhunt for the five men, the law enforcement source said.
A number of people from Pakistan and the Middle East were brought in for questioning after Monday night's raids on six locations, the source said. All were released by late Tuesday.
Members of the FBI's and New York Police Department's Joint Terrorism Task Force conducted four raids in Brooklyn and Queens, the source said, and at least one of the others was in New Haven, Connecticut. It was not known what types of locations were raided.
Authorities have no indication of a terrorist attack planned at this time, the source said.
President Bush said Tuesday federal authorities are treating every lead seriously.
"We need to know why they're in the country, what they're doing in the country. And if anybody has any information about the five, I would hope they would contact their local authorities," Bush told reporters in Crawford, Texas, where he was spending the holiday.
Federal officials said tips from the public have come from across the country, but none so far has led to an arrest.
Law enforcement sources said the search is considered "very serious," in part because of recent attacks overseas, a high level of "chatter" among intelligence sources and the prospect of a possible U.S. war with Iraq.
The Transportation Security Administration placed the men on a "no-fly" list advising airlines and airport workers not to allow them aboard aircraft. (Full story)
Those having information about the five are asked to contact the nearest FBI office.
No information exists linking the men with possible terrorist activity, and there is nothing to suggest that New York might be a target, authorities said.
But the fact that city was hosting one of the biggest New Year's Eve celebrations raised the level of concern, and air space over New York was restricted for the holiday.
CNN Correspondents Jeanne Meserve and Kelli Arena and Producer Jamie McShane contributed to this report.