ABC News reports that Pakistani authorities have held an American traveling without permission in the tribal lands on the Afghan border. Juddi Kenan of Florida claimed that he wanted to visit a friend. However, Pakistani officials find that suspicious:
A 20-year-old American man was arrested late Monday at a checkpoint near the Afghan border in a tribal region where Pakistani troops are fighting Taliban and al-Qaida militants, police said.
Officers were investigating what the man was doing in the border area, which is believed to be a possible hiding place for Osama bin Laden and other foreign extremists, said one officer, Pir Shahab.
He said the man — identified on his passport as Juddi Kenan — did not have permission to be in the region as is required by Pakistani law. He was arrested at a checkpoint trying to enter Mohmand agency, Shahab said. …
Another police official, Marjan Khan at the station in Sarrokali, said the man was wearing traditional Pakistani clothes and appeared to be a civilian. “He has told us that he was a student at a community college in Florida, and wanted to enter the tribal region to see a friend.” Khan said the man carried a laptop and a travelling bag, adding that he had been shifted to an unknown place for more questioning, also by intelligence agencies.
When the US invaded Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks, American intelligence officials captured John Walker Lindh, also twenty years old at that time. Lindh fought with the Taliban Army, which should have brought charges of treason, but had charges reduced in exchange for a guilty plea. The circumstances of his treatment when captured and interrogated would have made a trial potentially embarrassing for the government.
If Kenan went to Pakistan’s frontier territories to join the Taliban, he will probably not have the same fortune. Lindh got painted by the media as a naïf who didn’t comprehend that he would have to fight Americans. Seven years after 9/11, that excuse will no longer apply.
Perhaps he has an innocent explanation for entering tribal areas that even the Pakistani military would prefer to avoid. If so, though, one would have expected Kenan to have sought the proper permits for his journey. It seems suspicious that Kenan picked one of the most strife-ridden areas of the world for a school vacation.