ISLAMABAD – Taliban insurgents had planned to use five Americans, now detained in Pakistan, who had contacted the militants via the Internet, to carry out attacks in the U.S.-allied country, a police official said on Saturday.
Usman Anwar, police chief in Sargodha, where the men were arrested this month, said emails had revealed plans for the young men from Virginia to travel to a Pakistani nuclear power plant.
"We believe that they were supposed to be used inside Pakistan," Anwar told Reuters by telephone.
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"In their last email to the Taliban, we found they mentioned the Chashma Nuclear Plant and that's why they were going to Mianwali (district)."
Anwar declined to give details because police were still interrogating the suspects.
The case has illustrated how easy it is for anyone to pursue dreams of joining militant jihad through cyber channels, a worrying reality for Pakistan, already struggling on the ground to contain a Taliban insurgency.
Washington is pressuring Pakistan to root out militants in lawless tribal areas who cross the border to attack Western forces in Afghanistan. But it is a sensitive issue.
Pilotless U.S. drone aircraft attacks on suspected militants on Pakistani soil have already infuriated many Pakistanis.
A drone aircraft attacked a suspected militant target in northwest Pakistan on Saturday, killing five people, intelligence officials said.
Two missiles hit a house in North Waziristan in the attack. Two people other people were wounded, the officials said.
The possibility of militants attempting to attack Pakistan's nuclear weapons alarms Western powers, although analysts say it is highly unlikely.
Militants have struck back with bombings that have killed hundreds of people in response to a major security offensive in one of their strongholds in October.
The Taliban want to impose their harsh version of Islamic rule in Pakistan and have made clear how they would do it -- public whippings and hangings of those deemed immoral.
Local officials said on Saturday militants killed Gul Mohammad, a commander of an anti-Taliban militia, and dumped his beheaded body on a roadside in the Bajaur tribal district on the border with Afghanistan. A note was left warning that others could suffer the same fate, the officials said.
The five Americans were arrested in Sargodha, home to one of Pakistan's biggest airbases, 190 km (120 miles) southeast of Pakistani capital Islamabad.
Some analysts say the case of the Americans reflects a new strategy by militants to try to avoid tighter security measures by forming networks on the Internet.
The men -- two are of Pakistani ancestry, one of Egyptian, one of Yemeni and one of Eritrean -- may face terrorism charges.
They were found with maps and had intended to travel through northwest Pakistan to an al Qaeda and Taliban militant stronghold, officials said.
The suspects were being investigated for links with the banned Jaish-e-Mohammad group, which has carried out high-profile attacks, officials have said. The Pakistan-based group has links with al Qaeda and the Taliban.
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