U.S. counterterrorism and FBI officials have been trying to retrace the men's steps up to their departure on the weekend of November 28 when they left the United States from Dulles Airport for Karachi,Pakistan. American authorities are looking into the possibility that the men communicated with extremists via YouTube and they allegedly used a shared email address to update and save a draft email in order to avoid ever sending an email that could be traced by law enforcement.
There are no criminal charges filed against the men in the United States but Pakistani authorities said early on Thursday that the men were seeking to engage in jihad. In an interview with Pakistani television, Usman Anwar, Sargodha District Police Officer, said, "They were U.S. nationals. They had U.S. passports, valid passports, with valid Pakistani visas and two of them were Pakistani-born Americans. They were here for jihad, and they had left a videocassette back there for their parents that they have left for jihad and they won't be back, so we suppose that they were here for somebody's bad activities."
Today, Pakistani officials said all five suspects had valid U.S. passports with valid Pakistani visas. They said two of them were Pakistani-born Americans, among the suspects are Rami Zamam, a Howard University dental student and his Facebook friend Waqar Hassan Khan. Umar Farooq is currently enrolled at George Mason University in Virginia as business student.
In a brief interview on Wednesday Ramy Zazmzam's brother, who uses the nickname "Zam" said of his broher, "He's a good guy. He's a normal Joe. I think he has a 4.0 GPA...he's going to be a dentist in, I think, three years."
FBI officials are looking at the men's contacts with people at the Islamic Circle of North America, a mosque located in Alexandria Virginia. Some US officials drew comparisions with the recent case of Somali-American youths who traveled to Somalia to engage in fighting in ongoing civil war there. The men in that case were recruited and drawn into the glory of training and fighting jihad overseas only to come to the realization of extreme violence and unwanted fighting for survival.
U.S. intelligence officials have been increasingly concerned about homegrown terrorists -- individuals recruited by radical groups at home or abroad. Officials believe Americans of Middle Eastern descent are particularly attractive for these groups because they may draw less attention when they travel to Pakistan or Afghanistan for training.
In Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, President Obama commented on the arrests. "We have to be constantly mindful that some of these twisted ideologies are available over the internet and can affect our young people," said Obama.