Pakistani authorities have registered a case under the stringent Anti-Terrorism Act against the five American Muslim youths, who were recently arrested in Sargodha in Punjab province on suspicion of links with terrorist groups.
"We will try them under the Anti-Terrorism Act and sections of the Pakistan Penal Code. We will soon reach the local people related to this network," said Usman Anwar, the police chief of Sargodha, where the US nationals were arrested on December 9. Authorities also obtained remand of the suspects -- Waqar Hussain Khan, 22, Ahmed Abdullah Minni, 20, Ramy Zamzam, 22, Iman Hassan Yemer, 17, Omar Farooq, 24 and his father Khalid Farooq -- for 10 days from a magistrate in Sargodha on Tuesday. The suspects were taken from Lahore to Sargodha under tight security.
Soon after their remand was obtained, they were escorted back to the Chuhng Police Training Centre in Lahore.
On Monday, the Lahore high court had ruled that the US nationals cannot be deported. It also issued notices to the federal and provincial governments asking them to provide details of the investigation against the suspects by December 17.
Tariq Asad, a lawyer who filed a petition on behalf of the non governmental organisation Defence of Human Rights asking the court to prevent the deportation of the Americans, said that Omar Farooq's mother Sabira was missing from her home in Sargodha for the past few days.
"It is suspected that the police has taken her into custody," Asad alleged and said he would raise the issue in court.
Anwar said investigators had already gathered clues about the network linked to the American youths, but another senior police officer said the authorities could have busted the entire ring if the US nationals had been allowed to contact the people they were looking for.
"The five US youths had planned for a meeting with a man named Saifullah in Mianwali, from where they were to go Miranshah (in North Waziristan). Instead of informing senior officials and intelligence agencies and asking them to follow the Americans to Miranshah so that local jihadis there could be caught, the police in Sargodha acted on their own," an investigator said.
The US nationals were planning to travel to North Waziristan to train with the Taliban and the Al Qaeda so that they could fight US forces in Afghanistan, sources said. They also made attempts to contact the Jaish-e- Mohammed and the Jamaat-ud-Dawah, but were turned away by them.
However, lawyer Asad claimed the neighbours of the youths in the US had used terms like "good guy" and "friendly" to describe them.
After arriving in Karachi on November 30, Waqar Hussain Khan, Ahmed Abdullah Minni, Ramy Zamzam and Iman Hassan Yemer left for Hyderabad and Lahore before reaching Omar Farooq's residence in Sarghoda on December 7. Omar's father, also a US national, was arrested for providing shelter to the suspects.