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Pak link to America’s wanted five

Washington, Dec. 31 (Agencies): Five West Asian men being hunted down by the FBI may have slipped illegally into the US through a Pakistani smuggling ring, ABC television reported today.

The federal police have posted photographs of the five men, aged 19 to 33, asking the public to be on the watch for them without saying if they presented any threat.

The five have been identified as Abid Noraiz Ali, Iftikhar Khozmai Ali, Mustafa Khan Owasi, Adil Pervez and Akbar Jamal, according to a statement released by the FBI.

According to ABC, Canada informed the US authorities that the five were part of a larger group of 19 men from the Pakistan area trying to enter the US through its northern neighbour.

“They were allegedly willing to pay substantial amounts of money,” the network said.

Photographs posted on the fbi website (www.Fbi.Gov) show five dark-haired men, wearing casual Western clothes and sporting crew cuts.

The FBI said the men crossed the border into the US illegally on December 24, probably from Ontario, Canada into the US state of Michigan.

At the state department, deputy spokesman Philip Reeker has said there was no record of any of the five men applying for US visas under the names given by the FBI.

Despite the dragnet, authorities have not announced any increased threat and the White House has not changed its “elevated” level of alert since the search for the men began.

Border skirmish

The US military bombed an abandoned religious school on Pakistani territory after a gunbattle between US and Pakistani troops on the border with Afghanistan, Pakistan officials said today.

The US military said that one of its soldiers had been wounded in Afghanistan on Sunday in an exchange of gunfire with a Pakistani border guard. A Pakistani official said two border guards were also injured.

Pakistan is a close US ally in the war on terror and says it has stationed 60,000-70,000 troops on the Afghan border to help track down remnants of Osama bin Laden's al Qaida network and leaders of the Taliban regime that sheltered them.

The wounded American was part of a unit conducting a mission with Pakistani forces along the Afghan border when a disagreement appeared to break out, according to a statement released by the US military at their Afghan headquarters at Bagram air base.

“A Pakistani border scout opened fire with a G3 rifle after the US patrol asked him to return to the Pakistan side of the border,” the statement said.

“That individual and several others retreated to a nearby structure,” it added. “Close air support was requested and one 500-pound bomb was dropped on the target area.”

Mohammad Khurshied, a local official in Pakistan’s South Waziristan tribal area close to the Afghan border, later told Reuters that a seminary in the Pakistani town of Angor Adda had been hit by US warplanes.

A Pakistani intelligence official said two bombs were dropped on Pakistani soil, but he reported no injuries.

Haji Anar Gul, a businessman in the area, added that the bombs fell on a religious seminary known as the Maulvi Mohammad Hassan madarsa, damaging its boundary wall and main gate. The US military said the incident happened near the Afghan village of Shkin, which lies on the border with Pakistan.

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