Chile extends detention of Pakistani in US embassy scare
Chilean authorities extended the detention of a Pakistani man found with traces of explosives as he visited the US embassy to discuss a revoked visa.world Updated: May 12, 2010 08:46 IST
Chilean authorities on Tuesday extended the detention of a Pakistani man found with traces of explosives as he visited the US embassy to discuss a revoked visa.
"I am innocent and I do not know why this is happening. I think it is the fault of the United States, where I wanted to go for a month. That's why I went to the embassy," the man, who police identified as Mauhannas Saif Ur Rehnab Khan, told reporters.
Rehnab, 28, denied any terrorist ties. "I have no idea what is happening here, but I imagine it has to do with what's going on in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said.
"I don't know anything about bombs. I am a man who studies and works and I have nothing to do with that stuff," he said. Rehnab made the remarks to AFP as he was transferred in a police van to a hospital for a medical checkup ordered by Judge Ely Rothfield.
Rehnab said he had not had contact with the Pakistani embassy, or with Chilean authorities, or the prosecutor in the case, Francisco Jacir.
Under anti-terror laws the suspect can be detained until Saturday, court sources said.
Experts found traces of a TNT explosive derivative on the young suspect's hands, cell phone, bag and documentation after he went through a security checkpoint on Monday, prompting embassy staff to notify police.
Rehnab insisted he did not know where the traces came from, and said that he was at the embassy only to renew his visa. But a senior State Department official said in Washington Tuesday that the embassy had called Rehnab in after revoking his US visa. He would not say why the visa had been revoked.
State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Rehnab had been called in "to clarify the information that we have on this individual.
"And as he came into the embassy, our explosive detectors went off."
The arrest came a week after Pakistani-born naturalized US citizen Faisal Shahzad was pulled off a plane to Dubai and arrested for allegedly leaving a sport utility vehicle rigged to explode in New York's crowded Times Square.
"I'm not aware there was any connection with the Times Square situation," said Crowley.
The US ambassador to Chile, Paul Simons, said the affair was in the hands of Chilean lawyers, speaking in Spanish on local radio.
Simons told Radio Cooperativa it did not appear that Rehnab sought to attack the embassy because only residue was detected on him, but he underlined that the authorities needed to investigate.
Chilean prosecutor Mario Schilling told AFP that a probe was under way after police interrogated Rehnam and raided his home.
The suspect arrived in Chile some three months ago on a valid visa and sought work at a hotel in the capital and to practice his Spanish.
A neighbor told local daily La Tercera that Rehnab had planned to travel to the United States to work in the hotel business.
Sources at Pakistan's embassy in Santiago told AFP that Rehnab had not contacted them seeking legal help.
The suspect was not on Interpol wanted lists nor had any apparent history with terrorist groups, according to Chilean media.
"It's surprising for us. We hope that the investigation shows that he isn't linked to anything, and if he is, that the law is applied," said Mohammed Said Rumie, secretary general of the Islamic Center and spokesman for the As-Salam mosque that Rehnab frequented.
The spokesman said that Rehnab was introverted and did not mix with the rest of the congregation at the Chilean capital's only mosque.
The US embassy in Santiago has had no significant security alerts since it received a letter bomb in September 2001, several weeks after the New York and Washington attacks.
A former Chilean security analyst was sentenced to 11 years in jail in that case.
First Published: May 12, 2010 08:43 IST