Pakistani with explosive substance enters US embassy in Chile

Traces of explosives were found on a Pakistani man who was summoned to the US Embassy because his US visa had been revoked, authorities said.

world Updated: May 12, 2010 07:32 IST

Traces of explosives were found on a Pakistani man who was summoned to the US Embassy because his US visa had been revoked, authorities said on Tuesday, and a Chilean judge ordered him held in a high-security prison under anti-terrorism laws.

Mohammed Saif-ur-Rehman Khan, 28, was detained on Monday after the embassy's detectors were set off by traces of bomb-making material, said Mario Schilling, a Chilean prosecutor's spokesman. Schilling did not elaborate on what kind of explosives were involved or provide more details about the case.

A judge agreed on Tuesday to keep Khan behind bars for five more days under Chile's anti-terrorism law to give more time for the investigation. Khan has not been charged with any crime. Chile's interior minister, Rodrigo Hinzpeter, promised a thorough investigation. "We will be relentless in the fight against any form of crime, especially terrorism," he told reporters while touring southern Chile.

In Washington, the State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, said U.S. and Chilean officials would conduct a joint investigation. Investigators in white hazardous-materials suits searched Khan's apartment in a student residence in downtown Santiago. A senior State Department official in Washington said U.S. authorities had received information about Khan that led them to revoke his visa and he was asked to visit the embassy in Santiago so diplomats could inform him of the revocation, as required by U.S. law. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

U.S. Ambassador Paul Simon told The Associated Press that the embassy called Chile's government and police after "security procedures detected some traces of explosives during the interview." He said it didn't appear the embassy itself was targeted.

According to the Chilean newspaper La Segunda, the substance detected was Tetryl, a compound used to increase the explosive power of TNT.

Asked about the report, Schilling, the prosecutor's spokesman, said, "I am not authorized to say that." He also wouldn't comment on a report in the newspaper El Mercurio that the substance was detected on a bag, documents and cellular telephone carried by Khan. El Mercurio reported that Khan was in Chile legally to study tourism and had a job at a hotel.

His detention came only days after Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistan-born U.S. citizen, allegedly tried to set off a bomb-laden SUV in New York's Times Square after receiving training from the Taliban in Pakistan.

First Published: May 12, 2010 07:18 IST