The young men from northern Virginia had been missing since late November before they were arrested earlier this week after allegedly trying to join up with terrorist groups, possibly with the goal of fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Javed Islam, a regional police chief in Pakistan, said the men, who ranged in age from 19 to 25, met with a banned military organization, Jaish-e-Mohammed in Hyderabad, and with representatives of a related group, Jamat-ud-Dawa, in Lahore. Another law enforcement official, Usman Anwar, the local police chief in Sargodha, told The Associated Press that the five are "directly connected" to the al-Qaida terrorist network.
The men used the social networking site Facebook and the Internet video site YouTube to try to connect with extremist groups in Pakistan, said S.M. Imran Gardezi, the press minister at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington. When they arrived in Pakistan, they took that effort to the street.
The militant groups reportedly turned the men away because they lacked references.
The State Department said it is not yet clear whether the five men may have broken any Pakistani or U.S. laws during their stay in Pakistan.
Family and friends of the young men were taken by surprise by their radical leanings.
A spokesman for a Virginia mosque said the families of the men are going through "severe hardship." During a news conference at the Islamic Circle of North America mosque, spokesman Essam Tellawi asked people to pray for the families. He said the small community mosque in Alexandria focuses on how families raise their children and the church promotes tolerance.
At Friday prayer services at Howard University's dental school, Sultan Chaudhry, president of the dentistry school's student council, stressed to worshippers that Islam is a religion of moderation.
Ramy Zamzam, a student at the dental school, is among the five men detained in Pakistan.
"Muslims have to follow the middle path with no extremes on either side," Chaudhry said.
Islam promotes "human dignity and honor" and has a set of universal values that are "positive and life-affirmingl," Chaudhry said.
Students have been dealing with the news of their classmate in the midst of their final exam period, which ends Wednesday.
"Even studying is worship," Chaudhry told them.
At the mosque where Zamzam, Eman Yasir, Waqar Hasan, Umer Farooq and Khalid Farooq were in a youth group together, their youth leader, Mustafa Maryam, told reporters the group's focus was always community service and positive activities. He never suspected they harbored radical thoughts.
Inside the mosque, Friday's sermon reminded that the families of the young men and local Muslim leaders alerted the FBI that the students were missing and that they might be in Pakistan, after finding a disturbing farewell video showing scenes of war and casualties and saying Muslims must be defended.