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FBI Investigates Pakistani's Story in Fake ID Case

Far from U.S., he says his picture was one posted in suspected illegal border crossings.

January 03, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The FBI sought Thursday to verify a Pakistani man's contention that his photograph was wrongly included among those of men believed to have entered the United States illegally from Canada.

The investigation into the contention by Mohammed Asghar, 30, continued as the FBI delayed public release of photos of several other men officials say may have used fake passports to get into the United States during the recent holiday season.

"We're following up on all aspects of this investigation," said FBI spokesman Steve Berry.

President Bush told reporters at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, that he found Asghar's story "curious" in that the Pakistani man acknowledged in media interviews that he had used false documents in an unsuccessful effort to travel to Great Britain for work.

"We need to follow up on forged passports and people trying to come into our country illegally," Bush said. "The American people need to know that any time we get a hint that somebody might be coming into our country to cause harm, we'll follow up on it."

So far, none of the five men whose pictures were released Sunday by the FBI has been linked to terrorism. But officials want the public's help in finding them because they may be involved in a false identification and smuggling ring with terrorist connections.

"If we think there's a smuggling ring that's willing to smuggle people in that might harm America, we'll deal with it," Bush said.

Asghar, a jeweler in Lahore, Pakistan, said he was "shocked" when he saw a photograph closely matching his own likeness among the group being sought by the FBI. He said he will cooperate with U.S. officials.

"I just want to be cleared of this complicated situation," Asghar said.

For now, the photograph Asghar says is his will remain on the FBI's Internet Web site under the name Mustafa Khan Owasi, officials said. Authorities first want to establish whether the picture released by the FBI is Asghar.

"Where are the other four? How come they haven't stepped forward?" said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the White House Office of Homeland Security. "Maybe they're here, and if they are, maybe they're just on holiday, but we need to know why."

The others named by the FBI are Abid Noraiz Ali, Iftikar Khozmai Ali, Adil Pervez and Akbar Jamal. Officials cautioned that they were not certain if the identities are accurate because the information stems from a false passport scheme uncovered by Canadian authorities.

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