Pakistanis in America concerned over arrest of fellow countrymen by FBI

Washington, Sep 23 : The arrest of 45 people, mostly Pakistanis, in an FBI sting operation in Maryland has stunned Pakistani-Americans as they fear that it would further strengthen the negative stereotyping of their community in this country.

"People are scared. It will have a very negative impact on the entire community," said Munir Ahmad, a member of the Maryland Muslim Council.

"Some of the suspects were known in the community and people have been dealing with them," he said.

"People say that they were licensed money dealers and apparently law-abiding citizens. We don’t know what happened," Ahmad added.

Details emerging on Thursday show that a total of 45 suspects have been arrested so far in sting operations in North America and Europe.

Thirty-eight of the suspects in the US were arrested in raids conducted between Thursday and Friday.

One of the suspects is accused of concealing money for al Qaeda, the Dawn reported.

FBI agents also raided two gas station convenience stores and a home in Snow Hill, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, which apparently belonged to a Pakistani-American.

Federal prosecutors are seeking 5.1 million dollar in criminal forfeitures and ownership interest in two convenience stores located in Snow Hill, which belonged to a Pakistani.

Court documents show that people engaged by FBI posed as clients to lure the suspects; some posing as drug smugglers while in one case as a terrorist who wanted to send money to al Qaeda.

Federal prosecutors identified one suspect as Mohammed Ahsan, a 49-year old Pakistani-American living in Laurel, a Washington suburb.

US officials claimed that Ahsan laundered 520,000 dollar through his home in 2005 and 2006, believing he was helping drug dealers move their illicit money out of the US.

Prosecutors allege Saifullah Ranjha, 44, co-owner of Hamza, Inc. in Washington, accepted money from a witness who said the money was going to al Qaeda.

Saifullah Ranjha’s brother, Imdad Ranjha, 33, of Glen Burnie also was charged with one count of money laundering and one count of operating an unlicensed money transmitting company. (With inputs from ANI)