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Mosque of Americans arrested in Pakistan plans investigation

Five Americans were arrested in Pakistan, accused of plotting a terrorism attack.
Five Americans were arrested in Pakistan, accused of plotting a terrorism attack.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Members of the mosque describe five students as "wholesome, regular kids."
  • Americans arrested in Pakistan planned to go to Afghanistan, interrogation report says
  • Pakistani officials: 5 arrested Wednesday, sixth man -- father of one of the 5 -- arrested later
  • Pakistani police say men were planning terrorist acts, official says

Washington (CNN) -- A representative at the Virginia mosque of five Americans arrested in Pakistan said it plans to conduct an inquiry into the circumstances that led to the arrests.

The men were arrested by Pakistani police this week amid suspicion that they were plotting terrorist attacks and planned to go to Afghanistan, a development that shocked members of the ICNA Center, the mosque the five attended.

At a news conference Friday, friends of the five and members of the mosque expressed their surprise over the arrests, defending the activities at the mosque as positive and describing the five as "wholesome, regular kids."

Attorney Ashraf Nubani said he believes the incident is isolated, but said the mosque is conducting an inquiry into the matter.

While members of the mosque didn't comment on the reports and charges emerging from Pakistan, they described a tight-knit, patriotic congregation that focused on community service. They were grateful for the actions of law enforcement and expressed profound empathy for the families of the people held.

A Pakistani police interrogation report, dated Thursday, shined more light on the Wednesday arrests of the five Americans at a home in Sargodha, a town about 120 miles south of Islamabad. The men will be transferred to Lahore, Pakistan, for security reasons, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Friday. A sixth man -- the father of one of the five -- was arrested afterward, police said.

Read the interrogation report (PDF)

The report carries profile detail about the men and shows pictures of Internet sites, laptops, mobile phones, an iPod, and an external hard drive seized by police.

"They had deep interest in the religion and they were of the opinion that a jihad must be waged against the infidels for the atrocities committed by them against Muslims around the world," said the report, which refers to the five as college students.

The report focused on one of the suspects -- identified as Ahmed Abdullah Minni, a 20-year-old American born in Virginia. It said he regularly goes online to watch attacks on the U.S. military in Afghanistan and that he left comments praising the actions. That caught the attention of militants, and he was eventually contacted by a person named Saifullah, the report said.

After contact had been made, a Yahoo! e-mail account was set up so the men and militants could communicate, the report said. E-mails were never sent from the account, but people would leave messages in the draft sections of the e-mail account and delete them after reading them, the Pakistani police report said.

"This mode of communication enabled them to pass on messages without fear of interception by the FBI," it said.

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The report said the suspects made a plan with Saifullah to go from Pakistan to Afghanistan. They gathered in Karachi and left for Hyderabad on December 1. They tried to hook up with two militant groups -- Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Jamaat-ud-Dawa -- but neither group showed interest.

"They went to the madrassa [a Muslim school] of Jaish-e-Mohammad where they informed them about their desire for jihad. However, the management of the madrassa refused to keep them, and advised them to go to Jamat-ud-Dawa Lahore. Interestingly, the Jamat also refused to keep them as they could not provide a surety. Thus, they came along with their friend Umar Farooq to Sargodha," the report said.

The FBI said Pakistan authorities detained the men -- four of whom it said were found to have American passports -- on Wednesday, "after they came to the attention of police." An FBI statement did not give further details and did not identify the men.

Officials said the six men include three Pakistani-Americans, an Ethiopian-American, an Egyptian-American and an Eritrean-American.

Along with Minni, there were snapshots and brief profiles of only four others -- Umar Farooq, Aman Hassan Yemer, Waqar Hussain Khan, and Ramy Zamzam -- all from the Washington area. The sixth man was Khalid Farouk, father of Umar, the report said.

Mustafa Abu Maryam, a volunteer youth coordinator, said he never saw "extreme behavior" from the suspects, noting that youth group discussions never broached on politics or conflict.

"Our main focus is to be a positive force of good in our young men's lives. To be a deterrent of wrong groups and gangs and all other negative influences out there, to be a positive model for these kids," Abu Maryam said.

Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, said the incident is a "wake-up call" to the many negative influences youth face and touched on what he said were harmful messages sweeping across cyberspace. "We are determined not to let religious extremists exploit the vulnerability of the emotions of our children through slick, seductive and destructive propaganda on the Internet. We are sending a message loud and clear that those days are over where we will not respond in kind on the Internet to vile propaganda that misrepresents the Islamic faith," Bray said.

Subira Farouk, the wife of Khalid and mother of Umar, said on Thursday that she and her husband had traveled to Pakistan to arrange a marriage for Umar, and to her surprise, her son had arrived in the country shortly afterward.

 
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