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Ridge: Nothing to link videotaper to terrorists

Man arrested in Charlotte, N.C., faces immigration charges

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Kamran Akhtar was carrying videotapes of buildings in several Southern cities.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- No evidence has been found so far that a Pakistani man arrested after videotaping office buildings in Charlotte, North Carolina, is connected to terrorist groups, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Wednesday.

"There is nothing we know now today, as we speak, that he is connected in any way to potential terrorist activities," Ridge said.

"There is nothing we know now today that suggest the tapes are casings of particular communities. ... The investigation is ongoing."

Kamran Shaikh, also known as Kamran Akhtar, was arrested in downtown Charlotte on July 20 after a police officer saw him videotaping financial buildings. When the officer approached Shaikh, he was evasive, police said.

Two weeks later, on August 4, Shaikh was charged with immigration violations and making false statements.

That was three days after federal officials raised the terrorist alert level to orange, or high, for financial institutions in Washington, D.C., Newark, New Jersey, and New York City.

Authorities announced the charges against Shaikh on Tuesday and unsealed an affidavit filed by an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agent. (Full story)

Federal officials said they were investigating whether Shaikh was casing buildings as part of a terrorist plot or merely taking tourist pictures.

They became concerned after viewing other videotapes in his possession.

According to affidavit released Tuesday, the tapes contained images of Mansfield Dam near Austin, Texas; the MARTA transit system in Atlanta, Georgia; the Downtown Transit Center and Downtown Metro Trolley in Houston, Texas; and trolley cars in Dallas, Texas, and New Orleans, Louisiana.

On Wednesday, however, a MARTA official told CNN that the MARTA system did not appear on the video.

"MARTA police reviewed the videotapes last week and there were no shots of MARTA, no footage of MARTA," said spokeswoman Kimberly Willis Green.

The affidavit also says that among the sites Shaikh was taping when he was arrested in downtown Charlotte were the Bank of America and "Wachovia" buildings.

A Wachovia representative said the bank has not occupied space in the 32-story "Wachovia" building for several years, although the FBI still has an office in it.

According to the affidavit, Shaikh provided a New York driver's license and a Social Security card.

He initially told authorities he had a "green card" to work in the United States but later admitted he did not have such a card, the affidavit says.

Further investigation revealed that in March 1998 an immigration court had given Shaikh until July 12 of that year to voluntarily leave the country or reopen the case to ask for more time to become a permanent resident. No action was ever taken, according to court records.

CNN's Kelli Arena, Jeanne Meserve and Mike Ahlers contributed to this report.

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