Prosecutors began today a trial against five Americans in this dusty Pakistani city, accusing them of wanting to launch terrorist attacks here and in Afghanistan.
The men, in their late teens and early 20s, make up the highest profile overseas case of more than a dozen recently arrested terrorists or would-be terrorists who hold U.S. citizenship. The trend reflects a new threat of U.S.-based Islamic extremism, U.S. officials say.
Police in Sargodha, where the men were arrested, argue that the five men tried but failed to join two of the most notorious terrorist groups based in Pakistan, Mohammad's Army (Jaish-e-Muhammad) and the Army of the Pure (Lashkar-e-Taiba).
The ease with which five novice jihad-seekers made contact with terrorist groups demonstrates how Pakistan remains a hub for militant activity, officials say.
After they were rejected by the two groups, police allege, the five traveled to Sargodha, where one of them has family, maintaining plans to travel into Afghanistan to target U.S. troops.
Khalid Farooq, the father of suspect Umar Farooq, has said his son was innocent and had merely planned to go to Afghanistan to help Muslims affected by the war.
The men were charged with five counts, including conspiracy to commit terrorist attacks in Pakistan, plans to commit acts of degradation against the United States and Afghanistan, and directing each other to commit terrorist acts, a charge that carries mandatory life imprisonment.
A car carrying U.S. consular officials arrived today at the jail where the trial is being held in secret. They did not speak to reporters gathered outside the gate.