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THE WORLD

Pakistani Jeweler Says That's Him in FBI Photo

January 02, 2003|From Associated Press

LAHORE, Pakistan — A Pakistani jeweler said Wednesday that his picture is among those of five foreign-born men the FBI says may have entered the United States on falsified passports. He said he has never visited the United States.

An Associated Press photograph of Mohammed Asghar taken at his shop in Lahore on Wednesday was a near-perfect match for the one included on the FBI list under the name Mustafa Khan Owasi, down to the prominent mole on Asghar's left cheek.

FBI spokeswoman Angela Bell said the bureau was not able to confirm that Asghar is the man in the picture. She said the FBI planned to interview him in Pakistan.

Asghar, 30, said he was surprised to open a local newspaper and see his picture with another man's name beneath it.

Asghar said his only attempt at traveling abroad was frustrated when police in the United Arab Emirates discovered that he had a forged visa. He suggested that the document forgers he once patronized could have used his picture to create false travel documents for another man.

"I am a Pakistani and am living in my country, but American authorities have released my picture among those who are being traced by the FBI for entering America," Asghar said. "I have no links with any terrorist organization."

The only perceivable difference between the AP and FBI photos is that the man in the FBI photo is cleanshaven and shorter-haired. The FBI photo was presumably taken several months ago as part of Asghar's effort to buy a false visa.

Asghar, a jeweler, acknowledged that he tried to travel to Britain on forged documents two months ago. But he said that immigration officials at the airport in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, detected the falsification, questioned him for nine hours, arrested him and deported him back to Pakistan.

Asghar refused to say where, or from whom, he bought the documents. He said he didn't know any of the people on the FBI's list.

Asghar said he had never been to the United States.

"I went to Dubai two months ago on forged documents. My destination was England, where I wanted to find a job, but Dubai police caught me."

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