5 Arrested in Pakistan May Be Missing DC-Area Students

FBI has been searching for college students missing since last month

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    Authorities believe five men who disappeared from the Washington area may have trained with al Qaeda in Pakistan.

    U.S. officials said Wednesday that five Americans detained in Pakistan are believed to be the same five young men who vanished from the D.C. area in late November. One of the missing young men, officials said, left a farewell video saying Muslims must be defended and featuring images of American casualties.

    Two officials did not identify which of the five missing students made the video. Pakistan authorities say they have detained five unidentified Americans as they investigate the case. The FBI has been looking for the men for more than a week.

    The U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation.

    Howard University Student Among Locals Arrested Abroad

    [DC] Howard University Student Among Locals Arrested Abroad
    Missing northern Virginia men detained in Pakistan for possible links to terrorism

    The FBI has been searching for the men since their families reported them missing and expressed fears they may have gone to Pakistan, according to the two U.S. officials. The two are familiar with the case and spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

    The men were picked up in a raid on a house in Sarghoda in the eastern province of Punjab, police officer Tahir Gujjar said, adding that three of the men are of Pakistani descent, one is of Egyptian descent and the other is of Yemeni heritage.

    Regional police chief Mian Javed Islam told The Associated Press that the men were between the ages of 18 and 20 and had spent the past few days in the city, which is near an air base about 125 miles (200 kilometers) south of the capital, Islamabad.

    "They are being questioned and it is premature to say whether they are involved in or planned any act of terror," Islam said.

    In Washington, a spokeswoman for the FBI's local office said agents have been trying to help find the student-age men.

    "The FBI is working with the families and local law enforcement to investigate the missing students and is aware of the individuals arrested in Pakistan," said the spokeswoman, Katherine Schweit. "We are working with Pakistan authorities to determine their identities and the nature of their business there if indeed these are the students who had gone missing."

    She said the investigation continues and declined to comment further.

    "The Muslim community has taken the lead in bringing this case to the attention of law enforcement authorities and will offer ongoing cooperation with the FBI as the investigation moves forward," said Council on American-Islamic Relations National Executive Director Nihad Awad.

    Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for CAIR, said the five all left the country at the end of November without telling their families. He told The Associated Press the five are from the northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., area and are all acquaintances. He could not say exactly how they know each other.

    Hooper said after the young men left, some made phone calls to their families still claiming to be in the United States but the caller ID information suggested they were overseas.

    The families, who are members of the local Muslim community, took their concerns to CAIR, which put them in touch with the FBI and got them a lawyer, Hooper said.

    S.M. Imran Gardezi, press minister at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, declined to call it a terrorism investigation.

    He said there was information that the men were in Pakistan "for some contacts with groups there, but it's not yet clear. It's
    not yet clear what level they were into these activities."

    One of the men was Ramy Zamzam, a dental student at Howard University, according to the U.S. officials. A Howard University spokesman confirmed Zamzam was a student there but declined further comment.

    The officials said one of the group -- they did not say which one -- left behind what investigators believe was a farewell video message, in which he talks about defending Muslims and shows images of U.S. casualties.

    Washington-area Islamic leader Imam Johari Abdul-Malik said friends of the unidentified young men saw no signs the men were radicalized. At a news conference, Islamic leaders said the men left behind a disturbing 11-minute farewell video that contained misconstrued quotes from the Quran.

    U.S. Embassy spokesman Rick Snelsire said officials there were aware of the reported arrests, but could not confirm them.

    Pakistan has many militant groups based on its territory and the U.S. has been pressing the government to crack down on extremism. Al-Qaida and Taliban militants are believed to be hiding in safe havens in lawless tribal areas near the Afghan border.

    Samirah Ali, the president of Howard University's Muslim Student Association, said the FBI contacted her last week about Zamzam, and told her he had been missing for a week.

    Ali said she's known Zamzam for three years and never suspected he would be involved in radical activities.

    "He's a very nice guy, very cordial, very friendly," Ali said, adding that he has a bubbly personality. "It really caught me off
    guard."