FBI Arrests Father, Son on Terrorism Charges
RENEE MONTAGNE, co-host:
Federal officials say they have arrested two men from a farm town here in California who they believe have connections to al-Qaeda. Three others were also taken into custody on immigration charges. From member station KPCC, Tamara Keith reports.
TAMARA KEITH reporting:
Twenty-two-year-old Hamid Hayat and his father Umer, an ice cream truck driver from the town of Lodi, have been arrested for lying to FBI agents. What they allegedly lied about was the son's connection to al-Qaeda. According to an FBI affidavit, after failing a lie detector test, Hamid Hayat admitted that he had attended a terrorist training camp in Pakistan. There, he allegedly learned how to, quote, "kill Americans." The affidavit also says he trained in explosives and other weapons and used an image of President Bush for target practice. Hayat specifically requested to return to America for his mission.
According to federal officials, no specific attacks were planned, but potential targets included hospitals and grocery stores. Keith Slotter is the special agent in charge of the FBI for the Sacramento region. He says the investigation is long term and ongoing, and there could be more arrests in the town of Lodi.
Mr. KEITH SLOTTER (Special Agent, FBI): We believe through our investigation that various individuals connected to al-Qaeda have been operating in the Lodi area in various capacities, including individuals who have received terrorist training abroad with the specific intent to initiate a terrorist attack in the United States and to harm Americans and our institutions.
KEITH: FBI officials did not make it clear whether the men being held for visa violations would be charged with other crimes. Lodi is a three-exit town along Highway 99 in California's Central Valley with a reputation for its growing wine industry. Its population is 60,000. Twenty-five hundred of those people are Pakistani immigrants and second generation Pakistani-Americans. The mayor, John Beckman, says Pakistanis are fully integrated members of the community and have been for as long as he can remember. Beckman says he's concerned some people may see the charges as justification for harassment.
Mayor JOHN BECKMAN (Lodi, California): I'm glad the FBI is investigating and doing their job. And if the allegations about these fellows are true, I hope the FBI deals with them appropriately. The other 2,498 members of the Pakistani community in this Muslim mosque are still good Lodi citizens and good members of our community.
(Soundbite of children)
KEITH: Twenty-two-year-old Anesa Kahn(ph) watches her children play in the front yard of the house where she lives with her parents and husband. The house is just around the corner from Lodi's Muslim mosque. She's Muslim and has lived here her whole life.
Ms. ANESA KAHN (Lodi Resident): I mean, it was normal here, just like how everybody else is, just like a normal American family, and then all of a sudden, this starts happening.
KEITH: Kahn says she worries that the arrests and terror charges will make people look at her and other Muslims differently. The father, Umer Hayat, was arraigned on Tuesday and is being held without bail. His son will be arraigned in Sacramento on Friday. The leader of the regional Council on American-Islamic Relations says he'll be watching the case closely to make sure it is legitimate and not a case of overzealous law enforcement.
For NPR News, I'm Tamara Keith in Sacramento.
MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.