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FBI Widens Probe of Pakistanis in Rural California

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The FBI is widening its investigation of Pakistani-Americans in the small agricultural city of Lodi, Calif. The FBI alleges that some community members have connections to the Al Qaeda global terrorism organization, and have attended terrorist training camps. Madeleine Brand talks with Mark Martin of the San Francisco Chronicle.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

In Lodi, California--that's near the state capital, Sacramento--federal officials believe they've discovered a terrorist cell. A fifth person suspected of being an al-Qaeda sympathizer has been arrested. The 2,500-member Pakistani community in Lodi is reeling. Joining me now from Sacramento is Mark Martin. He's a reporter with the San Francisco Chronicle.

And, Mark, tell us about these five people who were arrested. Who are they?

Mr. MARK MARTIN (San Francisco Chronicle): Well, they're two people that actually the FBI has detained and are saying are involved in potential terrorism, Umer Hayat and his son, Hamid Hayat, and the FBI is contending that Hamid recently attended a terrorist camp in Pakistan and his father helped fund the trip from Lodi, where they live, to Pakistan to do that. The other three men are being held on immigration charges, and it's unclear exactly what the connection is between the father and the son and the three other men. They all were part of the same mosque in Lodi.

BRAND: But so far there haven't been any specific terrorist charges against any of the five.

Mr. MARTIN: Right. I mean, they're actually charged right now with lying to the FBI, although the FBI also says that the son and father have confessed to this visit to Pakistan for terrorist training.

BRAND: Now as I understand it, there were two different affidavits with different information, more information in the first one that was later not put in the second affidavit. What can you tell us about that?

Mr. MARTIN: That is true, and it's unclear why the FBI decided to release a second version that wasn't as detailed.

BRAND: You've been to Lodi. How is the town there responding?

Mr. MARTIN: It was a pretty crazy scene yesterday, a pretty--media circus, lots of reporters. The Muslim community, several people that I talked to in the Muslim community are pretty scared about what's going on. They're fearful that there might be reprisals. The FBI in the last week or so had really descended on Lodi. I talked to several people who had been questioned by FBI agents about these men who were detained, the FBI asking them if they would take polygraph tests, asking them if they knew if these men were involved with Osama bin Laden or al-Qaeda. So it's a pretty shaken community right now. Most of the Muslim community lives in the area of the mosque where this raid happened, and a lot of them stayed in their homes yesterday, didn't go to the prayer services at the mosque.

BRAND: Well, tell us about the mosque. How does it figure in the community there?

Mr. MARTIN: Well, obviously it's the central focus point of the community. It's where two of the imams that are being held were associated with.

BRAND: And what's been the town's reaction in general, the mayor, other civic leaders?

Mr. MARTIN: Well, the mayor made a visit to the mosque yesterday and has urged his community to not rush to judgment. There is a fear among leaders that there will be problems, perhaps retaliation, against the Muslim community, and certainly the Muslim community feels that, too. They're not going out as much, I think it's safe to say.

BRAND: And what happens next? I understand there will be an arraignment on Friday.

Mr. MARTIN: Yeah. And the US attorney's office has said that this is, you know, a probe that is expected to widen. We reported in our paper today that they're looking at some Bay area people in association with this. So we expect to see more about this. I think the investigation is continuing and may net more people.

BRAND: Mark Martin is a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle in Sacramento.

Thank you very much.

Mr. MARTIN: Thank you.

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