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Five Americans Arrested In Pakistan

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Now, the latest developments in the case of five young Muslim Americans who are being held in Pakistan. FBI agents have reached the young men and started interviewing them. They think the men may have been trying to join forces that are fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

NPR's Dina Temple-Raston is here with the details, and Dina, what have U.S. officials learned so far?

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, they're still trying to get of the bottom of this. But they have looked at these five young men's computers. They've interviewed them. They've actually retraced their steps from D.C. to Pakistan. Apparently, they arrived in Karachi on December 1st and then they made their way to Punjab province, which is in eastern Pakistan, where they were eventually grabbed by Pakistani authorities. But the question is once they got to Punjab, what is it that they did from there?

SIEGEL: And there were reports that these young men were trying, at least, to go to a terrorist training camps. Is that true?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, there's some differing reports. The Pakistani authority have said that they contacted - these young men contacted jihadi groups linked to al-Qaida trying to get into one their training camps, or their terrorist training camps. U.S. officials have been a little bit more careful about talking what these young men have or haven't done. They aren't sure that the young men actually connected with any group linked to al-Qaida. And they say that they think the young men may have wanted to get some sort of training, but they are not quite sure how far they got.

SIEGEL: Now, do we know how these young men were eventually picked up or what tipped the Pakistanis off?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, in fact these young men were staying in a government compound in Punjab province. And neighbors had seen them and were basically worried that there are all these Americans who were holed up in this particular apartment. So, they tipped off the Pakistani officials. Now, U.S. officials told me that they knew the young men were there. And that since the young men had gone missing at the end November, they are all from Washington, D.C., or that area, and their parents discovered this video that made them think that maybe these young men had gone to Pakistan possibly to fight. Now, we talked to the head of the council of American-Islamic Relations today. His name is Nihad Awad and he'd seen this homemade video that the parents found and this is how he described it.

Mr. NIHAD AWAD (Council of American-Islamic Relations): I saw the video myself, yes. One person appeared in the video, making references to conflict between the West and Muslim nations, juxtaposed images of wartime.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Now, we don't exactly what kind of video this was. Whether this was some sort of martyrdom video, I mean, I'm hearing from differing people, U.S. officials, that this was just sort of a goodbye video and not necessarily a martyrdom video. But that video went to the FBI agents and then they immediately began looking for the young men in Pakistan. An official told me that they had been tracking these five Americans through Pakistan, knew exactly where they were and then they were somewhat surprised when the Pakistanis picked them up earlier this week.

SIEGEL: Are these young men now under arrest or have they been charged with anything?

TEMPLE-RASTON: So far, they are only being detained. Now, there are conflicting reports about what they've actually done. It's unclear whether the young men actually reached out to jihadi groups for training and were rejected perhaps, or they were planning to go up to Waziristan, this area between Pakistan and Afghanistan where a lot of terrorist camps are, and were on their way but hadn't gotten there yet. The FBI is still trying to figure that out. And that's sort of the rub here.

SIEGEL: Thank you, Dina.

TEMPLE-RASTON: You're welcome.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Dina Temple-Raston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Dina Temple-Raston is a correspondent on NPR's Investigations team focusing on breaking news stories and national security, technology and social justice.
Robert Siegel
Prior to his retirement, Robert Siegel was the senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel hosted the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reported on stories and happenings all over the globe, and reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. He signed off in his final broadcast of All Things Considered on January 5, 2018.