Yesterday, the Investigative Project on Terrorism led with the story of five DC Area students who disappeared and were believed  to be heading for terrorist training.

December 8: Federal investigators are searching for a Howard University dental student and four other missing Muslim men reported missing from the Washington, D.C. area, the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) has learned. There is concern they may have been sent abroad to train for jihad. The five were last seen November 29.The identities of two of the missing men, Howard student Ramy Zamzam and Waqar Khan, have been mentioned in online postings, including a Facebook page that was set up Monday for friends to offer their support. Some of those pages, however, appear restricted to friends and associates.

It is not clear where the men are believed to have gone, but an informed source told the IPT that at least one left behind a farewell video.According to the Facebook and Twitter postings, Zamzam is among the missing. He has been active in the Muslim Students Association, serving as president of the MSA DC Council.

This morning, a Pakistan Newspaper announced that five foreign nationals were arrested in a terrorism raid. The raid took place at the home of a member of the Jaish-e-Muhammad,  an Islamic extremist group alleged to have links to Al Qaeda that has been banned by Pakistani authorities. Jaish is also listed by the U.S. State Department as a foreign terrorist organization.

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The Jaish-e-Mohammed is an Islamic extremist group based in Pakistan that was created by Masood Azhar, formerly among the senior leadership of Harakat ul-Ansar, upon his release from prison in India in early 2000. The group’s aim is to unite Kashmir with Pakistan, and it has openly declared war against the United States. It is politically aligned with the radical political party Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam’s Fazlur Rehman faction (JUI-F). Pakistan outlawed JEM in 2002. By 2003, JEM had splintered into Khuddam ul-Islam (KUI), headed by Azhar, and Jamaat ul-Furqan (JUF), led by Abdul Jabbar, who was released in August 2004 from Pakistani custody after being detained for suspected involvement in the December 2003 assassination attempts against President Pervez Musharraf. Pakistan banned KUA and JUF in November 2003.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009
SARGODHA: An Anti Organized-crime Cell raided a house situated in Aziz Bhatti Town of Sargodha and arrested five foreign nationals. DPO Sargodha Dr.
Usman Anwar told Geo News that the police raided the house of Khalid Farooqi, an activist of banned outfit Jaish-e-Muhammad, and arrested five foreign nationals from there. The arrested foreigners include 2 Yemenis, 1 Egyptian, 1 Swedish and 1 US-born Pakistani. The DPO told that these people had been living in Sargodha since Nov 30 and it was quite a possibility that they were engaged in acts of terrorism. Initial investigations have identified them as Ahmed Abdullah, Waqar Hassan Khan, Eman Hassan, Yasir and Rami Zamzam.

Newsweek spoke to people familiar with the investigation who indicate that although the Pakistani news report said only one of the detained men was American, in fact they were all either American residents or citizens. One of their sources says there is now discussion between Pakistani and U.S. authorities as to whether the men should be sent quickly back to the U.S. or initially dealt with by Pakistan’s legal system.  It is believed that these are the missing students who the IPT wrote about yesterday. So does the IPT.

 …police said all the arrested men were being held on terrorism charges. Taliban sources told Yousafzai that more than one of of the suspects originally spent time in Al Qaeda’s camps but quit the Afghan-Pakistan border area after Pakistan’s Army began its recent offensive against the Taliban.

According to one of the sources, the family of at least one of the detained men attends the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque, located in a Virginia suburb of Washington; the mosque was also once attended by Maj. Nidal Hasan, the accused Fort Hood shooter. Before 9/11, one of the mosque’s preachers, Anwar al-Awlaki, was in contact with at least two of the 9/11 hijackers. U.S. authorities are now investigating contacts between al-Awlaki, who later fled the U.S. for Yemen, and Hasan.

IPT reports that “The U.S. and British governments have both acquired overwhelming evidence that ‘homegrown’ terror cells seeking instruction at ‘real’ terror training camps frequently end up at either facilities run by LET or JEM. JEM is essentially seen as an equal substitute for LET if the latter is unavailable,” said terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann, who frequently serves as a government expert witness in terror prosecutions.

….the report of the arrests in Punjab has occurred as concern is increasing among U.S. officials about homegrown Islamic extremism and self-radicalization among American Muslims like Nidal Hasan. The project also notes some similarities between the case of 20 or more young Somali-Americans who have disappeared from the Minneapolis area over the last year, having allegedly gone to Somalia for training with Al-Shabab, a terror group also affiliated with Al Qaeda.

In a speech in New York, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned about the growing threat of home grown terror:

“We’ve seen an increased number of arrests here in the U.S. of individuals suspected of plotting terrorist attacks, or supporting terror groups abroad such as Al Qaeda,” Napolitano said in a speech in New York. “Home-based terrorism is here. And, like violent extremism abroad, it will be part of the threat picture that we must now confront.

We may have dodged the threat from these five, but there are many more to come.