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US men held in Pakistan had contacted Al-Qaeda: officials

world Updated: Dec 12, 2009 12:49 IST

Five US men arrested in Pakistan on suspicion of plotting terror attacks had contacted someone linked to Al-Qaeda and were arrested just before a scheduled meeting, police said on Saturday.

The men have been questioned by the FBI and Pakistani officials, accused of seeking to engage in militant activities and trying travel to the northwest Taliban heartland, officials said on Friday.

The men arrested on Wednesday in Sargodha, about 180 kilometres (110 miles) south of Islamabad, are US citizens with origins in other countries, including two Pakistani-Americans, officials said.

"They had contacted one Saifullah, who has links with Al-Qaeda, and they were set to go to Mianwali town on the day they were arrested to see him," an official close to the investigations told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"Saifullah had asked them to come to Mianwali where one of his man would contact them and arrange a meeting at some unknown place," the official said.

"According to our investigations the group wanted to go to Waziristan via Mianwali to get terrorist training," he added.

Another investigation official confirmed the account.

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Friday that the men would not be deported back to the United States unless they are cleared of any crimes by Pakistani police first.

Meanwhile, police shifted the detained men to the eastern city of Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, and formed a joint investigation team to probe them, Sargodha district police chief Usman Anwar told AFP.

"On the instructions of federal government, Punjab government formed a joint investigation team and handed over the suspects to it in Lahore," Anwar said.

"The detained men had contacted different militant outfits and they were planning to carry out big attacks," he added.

Sargodha police had registered a case against the men for conspiracy and plotting to carry out criminal activities, a local police official said.

ABC News said on Friday, citing a Pakistani police report, that the group used YouTube to praise and discuss strikes on US troops.

The 10-page interrogation report, obtained by ABC News and posted on its website, said one of the five men would regularly visit the video-sharing site to view footage of attacks on the US military.

Ahmed Abdullah Minni, 20, was registered on YouTube and regularly left comments on the videos praising their content, the report said.

He was contacted by an individual named only as "Saifullah" who the police report said initially communicated with Minni only through YouTube, it said.