Five Americans Face Possible Life Sentences on Charges in Pakistan

BY Larisa Epatko  December 31, 2009 at 5:35 PM EST

Five American men arrested in Sargodha, Pakistan, in early December face terrorism charges and possible life imprisonment for allegedly trying to train with a militant group linked to al-Qaida, Pakistani police said Thursday.

The young Muslim men were from Egypt, Algeria, Ethiopia and two were Pakistani-born Americans, but all had U.S. passports and valid Pakistani visas. They reportedly told police they wanted to train with a group associated with al-Qaida but had been turned away.

The men, ages 19 to 25, had been reported as missing by their families in the Washington, D.C., area. They are now scheduled to appear in Pakistan’s anti-terrorist court on Monday.

“Our investigation is complete and we will request the court during the next hearing to put the five men on trial under the anti-terrorism act and hand them down life imprisonment,” senior police official Tahir Gujjar told the Agence France-Presse. “It has now been established that the five men had contacts with militants, some of them foreigners, in South Waziristan, and they had come to Pakistan to carry out acts of terror,” he said.

In other news out of Pakistan, the Wall Street Journal reported that the United Nations is removing about a third of its 250-member staff from the country because of security concerns. The U.N. said the withdrawal would not impact aid operations for the tens of thousands of people displaced due to fighting between government forces and militants in the Northwest.

Eleven U.N. workers were killed in Pakistan in 2009, including five in an Oct. 5 suicide bombing of the U.N. World Food Program office in Islamabad.