2 Men Held in Links to Terror
FBI agents have arrested a man and his father after the son allegedly admitted attending Al Qaeda training camps in Pakistan that taught participants “how to kill Americans,” federal authorities said Tuesday.
In a case that was still unfolding, officials confirmed that Hamid Hayat, 23, and his father, Umer, 47, were taken into custody Sunday. Authorities said late Tuesday that they were still trying to determine whether the arrests represented the discovery of a small network of Al Qaeda sympathizers operating in the agricultural town of Lodi, 40 miles south of Sacramento.
The arrests came days after the younger man was discovered aboard a San Francisco-bound plane even though his name appeared on a “No Fly” list of suspected extremists.
At the time, according to an FBI affidavit, Hayat was returning to the U.S. after having visited Pakistan.
According to the affidavit, he told agents that after attending Al Qaeda training camps in Pakistan in 2003 and 2004, he was given his pick of where to carry out his terrorist mission.
“Hamid advised that he specifically requested to come to the United States to carry out his jihadi mission,” the affidavit says. “Potential targets for attack would include hospitals and large food stores.”
While Hayat and his father remained in custody on charges of lying to federal authorities, family members denied that the ice cream truck driver or his son, who works in a fruit-packing plant, had any links to terrorism.
“The charges are totally false,” said a female cousin of Hayat who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The family lives in a one-story house a block from Lodi’s mosque.
The cousin said Hayat’s most recent trip to Pakistan had nothing to do with terrorism.
Rather, she said, he went with his mother to arrange some marriages and visit relatives.
Hayat is the oldest of four children and was born in Lodi, according to the cousin. He went to Pakistan at the age of 9 “to memorize the holy Koran,” she said.
Dozens of FBI agents arrived at the home early Tuesday, family members said, and seized videocassettes, photographs, fax machines, prayer books and other items.
Federal authorities declined to provide details about the case.
“All I can say is that this investigation is continuing,” Sacramento FBI spokesman John Cauthen said.
But other law enforcement sources suggested Tuesday that the arrests followed a lengthy investigation by federal counterterrorism officials and would result in other arrests.
“These guys have been on the radar for awhile,” said one official, referring to the Hayats. “And this case has more to it than just these two guys.”
According to the seven-page FBI affidavit that was unsealed Tuesday, Sacramento FBI officials were first contacted at 5:30 a.m. on May 29, with information from FBI headquarters that Hayat would attempt to enter the U.S. later that day on a flight from Korea that was bound for San Francisco International Airport.
Sacramento Agent Pedro Tenoch Aguilar, in the affidavit, said authorities determined Hayat was en route to the U.S. despite being on a “No Fly” list.
The plane, according to Aguilar’s statement, was diverted and allowed to land in Japan for refueling.
While in Japan, Hayat was interviewed by an FBI agent and denied having any connection to terrorism. He was allowed to continue his travel to the U.S.
Immigration records cited in the FBI agent’s affidavit show that the Lodi man left Pakistan on May 27.
The records also showed that he had previously traveled to Pakistan in April 2003.
Last Friday, according to the affidavit, Hayat was interviewed by FBI agents in Sacramento and specifically asked if he had ever attended any terrorist training camps.
He said he would never be involved with extremists
The next day, Hayat voluntarily arrived at the FBI’s Sacramento office with his father to take a polygraph examination the agents requested.
After the test indicated some deception in his answers, Hayat acknowledged that he had attended a training camp in Pakistan for six months in 2003 and 2004, according to the affidavit.
Hayat described the camp as providing training in weapons, explosives, hand-to-hand combat and other paramilitary exercises, the affidavit says.
During his weapons training, he said, photos of various high-ranking U.S. political figures including President Bush were pasted onto the targets and he and others were trained on “how to kill Americans,” according to the agent’s statement.
Hayat also said he observed hundreds of people from various parts of the world attending the camps.
His father, according to the affidavit, also told FBI agents at first that there were no terrorist training camps in Pakistan.
But after being shown a videotape of his son’s statement, the affidavit says, Umer Hayat told agents he had supported his son’s time in Pakistan by, among other things, providing him a $100 monthly allowance, knowing that his intention was to attend a terrorist camp.
The elder Hayat also allegedly told authorities that he observed training in weapons and urban warfare at several camps, the affidavit says.
Umer Hayat told the agents that his son became interested in attending a terrorist training camp as a teenager, influenced by a classmate in Pakistan and an uncle who had fought with the mujahedin in Afghanistan, the affidavit says.
Several other family members and friends of the Hayats also were involved in a religious school that sent students to the training camps, the affidavit says.
Both men were being held in federal detention after a brief court appearance Tuesday in Sacramento.
While authorities would not comment on whether others have been arrested, local Muslim leaders reported the detentions of two other individuals: an imam at the Lodi mosque and another religious leader affiliated with an Islamic center in Sacramento.
Lodi has a sizable Pakistani population.
Times research librarian Scott Wilson contributed to this report.