A Pakistani court on Friday extended the custody of five American Muslim youths arrested for alleged terror links for another 10 days, a move that could complicate efforts by the U.S. to extradite them.
Sargodha Magistrate Muhammad Aslam Waniwaal handed the custody of the youths to police on physical remand apparently to pursue terrorism charges.
The U.S. is keen to get the detained American youths back home where they could also face custody and questioning by American agencies.
The arrest of the youths has brought to fore fears that Americans and other Westerners are heading to Pakistan to link up with al-Qaeda and other militant groups.
The police told the court that further interrogation of the suspects is necessary as they had mentioned the name of a nuclear plant in a message saved in their common mail account and this “sensitive” issue needs to be probed.
Police officials also said, they might ask the court to further extend the remand if necessary. The judge refused a request by the suspects to be detained together instead of separate cells.
The young Muslim men, who hail from the Washington DC have not yet been formally charged with any crime.
However, police are now alleging that the men were collecting material to carry out terror activities.
The five were arrested in Sargodha earlier this month, but are being held in Lahore, the provincial capital.
Police had said earlier that American youths were trying to link up with militant groups and intending to go fight in Afghanistan.
The youths are accused of using Facebook and YouTube Web sites to try to connect with religious extremist groups in Pakistan and are said to have established contact with a Taliban recruiter.
The men were picked up by Pakistani authorities after their worried families in the U.S. turned to the FBI to track them down.
Pakistani security agencies have identified the five as Waqar Hussain Khan, 22, Ahmed Abdullah Minni, 20, Ramy Zamzam, 22, Iman Hassan Yemer, 17, and Omar Farooq, 24, in Sargodha, some 200 km from Islamabad, on December 9.
While three are Pakistani Americans, two are Ethiopian Americans and one an Egyptian American.
Pakistani police are also seeking a man named Saifullah who was in contact with the youths on email and had said he would take them to the tribal belt.
The Lahore High Court has already ordered that the suspects cannot be deported or handed over to any foreign agency, including the FBI, without its permission.
Sargodha police chief Usman Anwar told media on Thursday that the interrogation of the suspects had been completed and they would be tried in an anti-terrorism court.