US men held in Pakistan had contacted Qaeda

US men held in Pakistan had contacted Qaeda

The men have been questioned by the FBI and Pakistani officials, accused of seeking to engage in militant activities and trying travel to the northwest Taliban heartland, officials said on Friday.

The men, arrested on Wednesday in Sargodha, about 180 km south of Islamabad, are US citizens with origins in other countries, including two Pakistani-Americans, officials said.  “They had contacted one Saifullah, who has links with the al-Qaeda, and they were set to go to Mianwali town on the day they were arrested to see him,” an official close to the investigations said on condition of anonymity.

“Saifullah had asked them to come to Mianwali where one of his men would contact them and arrange a meeting at some unknown place,” the official added. “According to our investigations, the group wanted to go to Waziristan via Mianwali to get terrorist training,” he said.

Another investigation official confirmed the account.  Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Friday that the men would not be deported back to the United States unless they are cleared of any crimes by the Pakistani police first.

Joint probe

Meanwhile, police shifted the detained men to the eastern city of Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, and formed a joint investigation team to probe them, Sargodha district police chief Usman Anwar said. “On the instructions of federal government, Punjab government formed a joint investigation team and handed over the suspects to it in Lahore,” Anwar said.

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