Five Americans arrested in Pakistan: Are more US citizens joining jihad?
The five US citizens arrested this week in Pakistan shed light on a growing trend: More US citizens appear to be joining global jihad. Pakistan is taking steps to clamp down.
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The men said Thursday that they had come to participate in jihad, Sargodha Police Chief Javed Islam told the Associated Press. It wasn’t clear if they had made contact with militant groups yet.Skip to next paragraph
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Countless local militants remain free
For each American arrested, however, many times more Pakistani militants spread across the Punjab remain untouched. The province, especially in the south, plays hosts to several long-established militant groups, including JeM, Lashkar-e-Taiba (the group linked to the Mumbai attacks, whose training camps Mr. Headley reportedly attended), Sipah-e-Sahaba, and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. In the 1980s and 90s, many of these organizations were cultivated by the government to fight the Indians in Kashmir or the Soviets in Afghanistan. Some are now legally banned, but operate freely and retain popular support.
The authorities “will restrict their activities, but it’s difficult to say they will get rid of these groups because these groups have developed strong, vital links [in society]. They always have quiet sympathizers,” says Mr. Rizvi. “There’s a serious problem of political will because of domestic fallout.”
The Army is also reluctant to open too many fronts against militants at once, especially in the country’s Punjab heartland. For the past half year it has committed tens of thousands of soldiers to fight Pakistani Taliban factions operating in the northwest, first in the Swat Valley and now, since October, in the South Waziristan tribal area.
Another reason for hesitation is that the Punjabi groups have not attacked the state as brazenly as the Taliban have. Taliban groups have set up de facto governments in the northwest and have fought Army efforts to reclaim these areas. They have also launched bomb attacks in major cities, and in recent months more Punjabis have joined the Taliban fight.
Intelligence officials “know who are these groups and where they are based but they do tolerate these groups as long as they don’t create problems for the government,” says Rizvi.
Hosting Americans, however, is a problem, he says, because it “creates embarrassment” for the government.