Authorities in Pakistan filed terrorism charges Wednesday against five Northern Virginia men and, for the first time, outlined an extensive plot that included plans to fight U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and possibly an attack in the United States.
The men, who lived and grew up in the Alexandria area, were arrested in Pakistan in December. They were each charged with five counts in a special anti-terror court, three of which carry a possible life prison term. Prosecutors say they were in the planning stages of attacks against a Pakistani nuclear plant and an air base and other targets in Afghanistan and "territories of the United States." Defense lawyers said that referred to attacks inside the United States, though the government presented no evidence of such a plot.
Ever since the men were arrested at a time of growing concern about homegrown terrorists, there have been questions about whether they are hardened jihadists, as described by Pakistani police, or humanitarians who left the United States to help other Muslims, as they say.
The torture allegations became specific Wednesday, as defense lawyers sought an investigation of Pakistani police and intelligence agencies over the men's treatment, and a prominent Muslim group in the United States released a letter it said Zamzam wrote to his mother in Northern Virginia from prison.
The letter said the men were beaten, deprived of sleep, food and water, and threatened with electrocution. "The police here does not care -- they beat the hell out of me and the rest of us until we said what they wanted us to say," Zamzam wrote in the letter, released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The story of the five men became public when the council got their families in touch with the FBI after they left the United States shortly after Thanksgiving without telling their parents. That triggered an international missing persons case. The men were arrested Dec. 8 at the home of Chaudhry's father, Khalid Farooq Chaudhry, and the terror allegations began immediately. (More)