"They are Americans, just like any other American, who are proud to be American, who want to fulfill the American dream, and who were on the road to doing that when the American nightmare happened to them," Newkirk said.
David Kubiliun, another attorney for the men, said all three are U.S. citizens. Gheith is a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Jordan.
The three students were in two cars and en route to Miami on Friday when authorities stopped them on Interstate 75 after one of the vehicles allegedly went through a toll plaza without paying. Newkirk denied they had not paid.
Officials at Ross University, which is based in New York City but has a campus on the Caribbean island of Dominica, did not immediately return calls for comment on Sunday.
—The Associated Press
Pentagon Presses Terror Hunt in Yemen, Bin Laden’s Home
W A S H I N G T O N, Sept. 16 — The Pentagon is stepping up the hunt for al Qaeda fighters in Yemen, ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, which remains a terrorist hornets' nest despite efforts of U.S. and Yemeni authorities over the past two years.
The Defense Department has sent a team to the remote, rugged Middle East country to recommend ways the United States can help local forces catch al Qaeda fighters, including some who fled the U.S. war in Afghanistan, and their supporters, officials said.
Little visible progress against terrorists has been made in Yemen in recent months, although the CIA has offered intelligence; the FBI turned over a list in February of al Qaeda network suspects believed in Yemen; and U.S. special forces have trained local forces in counterterror tactics for some weeks this summer.
"In Yemen we're still at an early stage," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said.
"We're hopeful that they will become more energetic in pursuing some very dangerous people whom we know are in remote parts of that country," he said in an interview last week with AP Radio and AP Television News.
On the southern Arabian Peninsula across from the Horn of Africa, the homeland of bin Laden's father long has been a base of and transit point for terrorists. At the same time, many Yemenis pay allegiance more to local chieftains than to the central government.
Yemen's place in the lineup of terrorist havens was illustrated again Friday, when Pakistani authorities said they had captured 10 alleged members of al Qaeda, at least eight of them Yemenis, including suspected Sept. 11 operative Ramzi Binalshibh.
Though the U.S. government will not talk about the nationalities of the hundreds of prisoners at its Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, jail for terror suspects, other sources have said that about 70 are Yemenis.
It also was in Yemen that 17 American sailors died in October 2000, when terrorists believed linked to al Qaeda bombed the Navy's USS Cole as it refueled in the port of Aden. The attack set off a flurry of joint investigations involving FBI agents with Yemeni police.
With al Qaeda operatives believed at work in some 60 countries, some of whose governments are willing hosts and some not, Yemen is an example of those nations with terrorists that might like to stop them but need help, Pentagon officials said.
Yemen was the third place — after the Philippines and Georgia, a former Soviet republic — to which the Pentagon sent special forces traine38 p.m. L 0.4.
—The Associated Press