A Pakistani jeweler said Wednesday his picture is among those of five suspects who the FBI says may have entered the United States on falsified passports. The man said he has never visited the United States, The Associated Press reports.
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.
Asghar, 30, told AP that 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 he had a forged passport. 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 told the AP. “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 clean-shaven and shorter-haired. The FBI photo was presumably taken several months ago as part of Asghar’s effort to buy a false passport.
Asghar, a jeweler, acknowledged that two months ago he tried to travel to Britain on forged documents. 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 told the AP he has 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.”
The FBI recently released photos, names, and birth dates of the five men believed to be of Middle Eastern origin and sought the public’s help tracking them down for questioning. The names of those five are Abid Noraiz Ali, Iftikhar Khozmai Ali, Mustafa Khan Owasi, Adil Pervez and Akbar Jamal.
Asghar said he doesn’t know any of the people on the list.
FBI agents are expanding their dragnet for a growing list of foreign-born men they believe may have entered the United States illegally from Canada in a false ID case that has heightened terrorism fears around the New Year’s holiday.