U.S. clears name of Pakistani jeweler

A Pakistani jeweler who said his photo was mistakenly included among a group of men sought by the FBI for illegally entering the United States thanked the American government Tuesday for fixing the error and again insisted he was innocent, The Associated Press reports.

Mohammad Asghar reportedly said he was happy to have his name cleared. He spoke after a law enforcement official in Washington said the FBI had called off a search for the five foreign-born men after questions arose about the tipster who told authorities the five were smuggled into the country last month.

A picture that matched Asghar’s face perfectly was listed by the FBI under the name of Mustafa Khan Owasi, one of the men wanted for questioning.

“I am innocent, and God helped me,” Asghar told The Associated Press on Tuesday night in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, where he lives and keeps shop. “I am thankful to the media who helped me to get out of this hard time. I am also thankful to the FBI and the American government who realized their mistake and removed my name and picture from the wanted men list.”

However, the pictures remained posted on the FBI’s Web site late Tuesday.

The law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity Tuesday, said the names of the men and their photos will be removed from the site, the AP reports. A message to police agencies around the country telling them the search was off was also to be transmitted Tuesday, the official reportedly said.

The FBI issued the alert, along with the photos, on Dec. 29, seeking the public’s help in locating the five men believed to have entered the country around Christmas Eve. The tip came from Michael John Hamdani, an accused immigrant smuggler jailed in Canada since October.

At the time, the FBI acknowledged it was not certain the names and birth dates released with the photos were correct, or that the men had actually entered the country.

Last week, Asghar came told AP his photo had been wrongly included among the wanted group and speculated it might have been stolen by document forgers. Asghar acknowledged providing photos to a forger to obtain a fake visa in an unsuccessful attempt to get to Britain.