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FBI Arrests Men Suspected of Ties to South Asian Terror Group

FBI Arrests Men Suspected of Ties to South Asian Terror Group

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The FBI made a series of arrests in three states Friday of men suspected of ties to an anti-U.S. terrorist organization whose main goal is driving India out of the disputed Kashmir territory in South Asia.

A federal indictment alleged 11 men, while in the United States, conspired to "prepare for and engage in violent jihad" against foreign targets in Kashmir, the Philippines and Chechnya.

Seven men were arrested in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. Four others were also charged in the indictment.

The men are alleged to be part of an extremist Muslim organization called Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations. The organization, whose name means "army of the righteous," is characterized by the State Department as strongly anti-U.S. in addition to its goals in Kashmir.

"These indictments are a stark reminder that terrorist organizations of various allegiances are active in the United States and these groups exploit America's freedom as a weapon to recruit and position themselves on our shores, in our society," Paul McNulty, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, told reporters.

Officials would not immediately say whether the men are suspected of plotting terrorist attacks in the United States, or if they have any direct links to the al-Qaida terror network.

The Indian government has accused Lashkar-e-Taiba of several suicide attacks against government officials and civilians in Kashmir, which is the subject of a long dispute between India and Pakistan.

The indictment said the group, from early 2000 through last May, prepared for military action abroad in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs of Washington and in St. Louis, Mo., and trained in small-unit military tactics near Fredericksburg, Va., using AK-47 assault rifles and other firearms.

They also used toys to fire paintballs in their combat simulations.

U.S. authorities obtained a number of warrants this year to conduct searches of the suspects' homes to look for evidence of militant or terrorist activities, officials said. The Washington Post reported earlier this week that some of the suspects played warlike paintball games in Northern Virginia and attended lectures given by a Muslim scholar whose home was also searched.

One suspect, identified as Ahmed Abu-Ali, also has been taken into custody in Saudi Arabia by officials there who are investigating the May 12 bombings in Riyadh in which nine attackers and 25 other people were killed, U.S. officials said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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