Video: U.S. men arrested for alleged terror ties

  1. Closed captioning of: U.S. men arrested for alleged terror ties

    >> calling him a suspect yet.

    >>> now to the fight against al qaeda . a u.s. counterterrorism official says the senior al qaeda official killed this week was a top strategist who worked to plan al qaeda 's terror operations abroad. some of the five students arrested in pakistan , nbc news has learned the students told the fbi agents that they made up their minds to wage jihad. i'm joined in studio by msnbc terrorist analyst evan coleman. good morning.

    >> good morning.

    >> what would these alleged would-be terrorists have struck? was it only potential overseas or potentially domestic as well?

    >> that's a concern. we've seen a bunch of home grown extremists leave the united states over the past two years and go to different conflict zones -- pakistan and somali are the two big ones . are these people just going to fight on the ground there? you know, certainly fight against u.s. troops but fight there? or is the point of doing this in order to get the skills to come back in the united states and do something here? there are indications that it may be latter. there were two individuals down in atlanta who were recently convicted in a case similar to what's going on now in pakistan where these guys basically outlined in very detailed computer conversations, which they conveniently recorded on their own computers about how they wanted to go abroad to iraq, to pakistan , to somalia, and learn how to, quote, cook. learn how to produce explosives. learn how to shoot. and then use those skills to come back right here in the u.s. and do something right here. but it's not clear. we hit the seam. these guys talk about jihad beyond u.s. borders. the question is if they reach somebody who really is in al qaeda or a real terrorist group is someone like that going to say, look. forget about fighting here. go back home where we really need you.

    >> all five of these students are from the washington, d.c. area. let's listen to what a lawyer for the local mosque had to say about it.

    >> they were wholesome, regular kids, thoughtful, with manners, engaged in their religion. regardless of all the information that is coming out, no one said from law enforcement specifically that we know of that a crime has been committed. and therefore, you know, even if people think this community is naive, we still hope for the return of these kids safely to their parents. and there's no reason to conjecture as to what may happen in the future.

    >> wholesome, regular kids. that's certainly a vastly different picture than what the u.s. government has maintained.

    >> that may be correct. at one point they may have been like that. the reality is that most terrorists are not bearded, foaming, crazy lunatics. most are ordinary people and what we're seeing is kids from ordinary families, ordinary mosques, from an ordinary community, and it's something that's not within that community that's radicalizing them but something outside that community. obviously the internet here is playing an increasingly large role not just generally in terrorism but very specifically in this case. the idea that these kids didn't have access to the world of jihad, violent extremism, aside from this narrow window over the computer. but it was through this narrow window that they apparently not only gathered together information about the cause and the willingness to join the cause but they may have actually made contact with the recruiter in pakistan who wanted to bring them over on the basis of the fact that this guy saw that in their private lives on the internet they were big fan boys of jihady videos and websites.

    >> okay. evan kohlmann as always we appreciate your insight.

updated 1/18/2010 5:42:50 AM ET 2010-01-18T10:42:50

Five Americans being held in Pakistan on suspicion of terrorism alleged they were being tortured in comments shouted to reporters Monday as they were driven from court.

Police and prison authorities denied any ill-treatment, and said the men did not bring up their complaints in court.

The allegations could add to political sensitivities surrounding the case, which comes amid growing anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. Washington is also calling for the Muslim country to do more to fight al-Qaida and the Taliban.

The five, all Muslims, were detained in December after being arrested at the house of one of their relatives in the Punjabi town of Saragodha.

Police have publicly accused them of plotting terror attacks in Pakistan, having links to al-Qaida and seeking to join militants fighting U.S. troops across the border in Afghanistan. Lawyers for the men say they were focused only on Afghanistan.

In Monday's hearing, police submitted a charge sheet and evidence to the court in which the men are accused of violating several sections of Pakistan's penal code and anti-terrorism law. The most serious charge is conspiracy to carry out a terrorist act, which could carry life imprisonment depending on what the act is, according to prosecutor Nadim Akram Cheema and police officer Amir Shirazi.

Prosecutors now have to decide whether the case is strong enough to charge the men and bring them to trial.

The men were inside a prison van when several of them shouted in unison, "We are being tortured" three times within earshot of reporters. The media and the public were not allowed to attend the court session.

Farewell video
Aftab Haanif, the deputy superintendent of Sargodha jail where the men are being held, denied any kind of torture and said they were receiving better food than regular inmates.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman said he had no immediate comment, but said consular officials had visited the men.

The five men are between the ages of 19 and 25 and all from the Washington area. They were reported missing by their families in late November after one of them left behind a farewell video showing scenes of war and casualties and saying Muslims must be defended.

The next court hearing was set for early next month.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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