June 8, 2005 — -- The arrest of two suspected al Qaeda agents in Lodi, Calif., today raises new concerns about the existence of al Qaeda training camps inside Pakistan.
According to an FBI affidavit, one of the suspects, Hamid Hayet, admitted to attending an al Qaeda training camp in Pakistan for six months in 2003 and 2004. His father, Umer Hayat, also in custody, told agents that he had visited other operational training camps around Pakistan.
"Wiping out the training camps in Afghanistan was one of the reasons we went into Afghanistan," said Richard Clarke, a former antiterrorism official and an ABC News consultant. "It was also one of the reasons we went into Iraq. And yet the whole time there were training camps in an ally, Pakistan."
Videotapes obtained by ABC News last week contain the only known images of al Qaeda training camps inside Pakistan. The al Qaeda-made tape shows fighters conducting a variety of exercises with automatic weapons, as they once did at similar camps in Afghanistan. The fighters are identified as coming from nine different countries in Africa and the Middle East, with many from Saudi Arabia.
During nighttime sessions, a leader tells the men in Arabic they must use violence to defend and impose Islam. Later in the video, the men are seen on an actual operation to attack a remote army outpost just before dawn.
Earlier this year, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf claimed that his nation's army had attacked and shut down such remote al Qaeda sanctuaries. "They are now on the run in the mountains, in small groups," said Musharraf.
The FBI affidavit in today's case claims that the training camp attended by the Hayets was located near the city of Rawalpindi, the country's military headquarters.
"That's a bit like having a terrorist training camp on the outskirts of Washington, D.C.," said Clarke.
According to the affidavit, the man running the Rawalpindi training camp was identified as Maulana Fazlur Rehman, which is also the name of prominent Pakistani opposition leader. Rehman is considered an Islamic fundamentalist, and is known for his close ties to Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime.
Authorities in the United States and in Pakistan are investigating whether the opposition leader is the same man identified by the al Qaeda suspects.