The latest in a wild and disturbing 7-month string of homegrown jihad plots, arrests and attacks has occurred in Pakistan, where five young American Muslims have been arrested. Pakistani authorities say they came to wage jihad, and had plans to link up with terrorist networks in the notorious Al -Qaeda hotbed of Waziristan. More here from the New York Times:
Sargodha, one of Pakistan’s biggest cities and home to the central command of Pakistan’s air force, is also known as a center for anti-India militant groups. North Waziristan is a haven for Al Qaeda in Pakistan; many Pakistani Taliban fighters have also fled there since the Pakistan Army’s assault on their bases in South Waziristan.
The arrests were made at a four-room home in a government housing complex belonging to an uncle of the eldest of the group, Umer Farooq, 25, according to Chief Anwar.
“We had tips from local people and work of field officers that some foreigners were residing in some area of the city,” Chief Anwar said. “We watched them for a day or so and then arrested them.”
Mr. Farooq’s parents were staying at the house at the time, and his father, Khalid, was arrested as well. The police chief said the elder Mr. Farooq knew his son and the other men were being hunted by the F.B.I. but had failed to inform the authorities.
His mother, Sabria Farooq, was interviewed Thursday at the house. She said she and her husband had emigrated to the United States 20 years ago from Sargodha and had returned in September to start a computer business, similar to the one they have in the Virginia suburbs close to Washington.
Mrs. Farooq, who was veiled and wearing a traditional shalwar kameez, said the family had informed the F.B.I. of their concern that their son had fled to Pakistan, but she did not make it clear whether they knew Umer had arrived in Sargodha.
A team of F.B.I. investigators interviewed the five men in Sargodha on Thursday, Chief Anwar said.
The arrests renewed concerns that American Muslim men with ethnic ties to Pakistan and other Muslim countries were increasingly at the center of terrorist plots aimed against the United States. Earlier this week, an American citizen of Pakistani background, David Coleman Headley, was charged in Chicago with helping plot the 2008 rampage in Mumbai, India, that left more than 160 people dead, including American tourists staying at a luxury hotel. Also charged was a Canadian born in Pakistan, Tahawwur Rana.
The police identified the others arrested in Sargodha as Ramy Zamzam, 22, a dental student of Egyptian background at Howard University, who was described as a sort of “ringleader”; Waqar Khan, of Pakistani background, who was reported to have family connections in Karachi; Ahmad A. Mini, 20, born in Eritirea; and Aman Hassan Yemer, 18, a native Ethiopian.
“They are U.S. nationals,” Chief Anwar said. “They have valid U.S. passports and valid Pakistani visas.”
The five men bonded together in the jihadi cause, watching jihadist video clips on YouTube that showed attacks by the Taliban on allied forces in Afghanistan, he said. The group also maintained a common e-mail address, Chief Anwar said. Employing a technique widely used among militants, they left their comments in the “draft” box of the e-mail address so that they could all easily read the comments.
The men appeared to have come to the attention of “Saifullah” — an Islamic militant with links to Al Qaeda — through their YouTube activities, the police chief said. Saifullah traced their e mail addresses through YouTube, Chief Anwar said.
After establishing the Internet connection with the militant, the men planned their journey to Pakistan and into the tough terrain of North Waziristan, where they intended to train around the border town of Miram Shah, a headquarters of the Afghan Taliban fighting against the American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, the police said.
One thing to consider here: what if these men would have returned to their Washington, D.C. home base as battle-hardened jihadists after a few months of tutelage from the terror masters in Pakistan? With the White House, Capitol Hill and Pentagon in strikng distance? From the cases I've studied of homegrowns who have trained overseas, that hunger for jihad never leaves. It's not like you can just go from killing infidels on the battlefield to settling into a quiet life as a short order cook in Virginia. Witness the case of alleged North Carolina terror cell leader Daniel Boyd, who trained in Afghanistan in 1989 as a 19 year old, then was indicted on terrorism charges 20 years later.
But perhaps these five Americans planned to never return. A source with knowledge of the investigation told me today that one of them made a "martyrdom tape" that featured graphic footage of Coalition forces being killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan, as well as vicious anti-Semtiic rhetoric. No surprise on either count. In literally every single homegrown case I have covered, the two common themes are hatred of Jews and Israel and hatred of the U.S. military, whicht he jihadists see as the symbol of "imperialist, Crusader agrression" against the Muslim world.
Also noteworthy is that one of the men who was arrested is a middle-class dental student at Howard University. Yet another example that Islamic ideology, not poverty or lack of opportunities, fuels Islamic terrorism.