Let’s see. They were taking an innocent three-month-long hiking trip through Pakistan, and got caught in a peaceful shootout with Pakistani police. But they aren’t involved in terrorism or anything. From The Star of South Africa, with thanks to PJS:
Two Gauteng hikers caught in a shoot-out with Pakistani anti-terrorist police and then detained as suspected associates of an al-Qaeda bomb maker flew home this week.
Upon arrival in South Africa they were again taken into custody. After questioning by South African law enforcement and intelligence agencies, they were released on Wednesday into the care of their grateful families. The authorities made public the men’s release only on Friday night.
Ismail’s brother, Firhad, told a local radio station: “The family is overjoyed that Zubair is back with us. We thank Almighty Allah for bringing him safely back to us.
“We would like to thank the South African authorities for whatever help they were prepared to assist us with [that] eventually got him back to us.”
Na’eem Jeenah, president of the Muslim Youth Movement, said on Friday night: “We are pleased that they have been returned to South Africa. We certainly would not have wanted them to be held in Pakistan or threatened to be sent to America.
“They would not have received a just hearing there.”…
Ganchi resigned from a private health-care group on July 10, intending to take a three-month hiking tour through Pakistan with a friend, Zubair Ismail, 20, a medressa student from Laudium, Pretoria. Ganchi was due to take up a specialist post in South Africa on October 1….
On July 10 Ganchi and Ismail flew to Pakistan on a regular SAA flight going via Dubai. They were booked to return on September 24, but Ganchi’s wife said she became worried “because for some reason his cellphone’s roaming was not working. He usually contacted me every two to three days.”
The last time she heard from Ganchi was on July 16 when he called her from somewhere “a little north of Lahore.” Then, silence. She filed a missing person’s report with the Department of Foreign Affairs.
On July 25 she was shocked to read in the local press that two men identified as South Africans “Feroze” (sic) and “Zubair Ismail” had been arrested along with four other adults following an intense eight-hour gunbattle in the city of Gujrat, one of several anti-terrorist sweeps conducted in Pakistan this year.
The police said they seized arms, explosives, laptop computers and world maps at the house, which was extensively damaged in the battle.
Meanwhile, Pakistan claimed in local newspapers that the arrested men were suspected members of an al-Qaeda “logistics and communications” cell operating from the rented house in Gujrat. Islamabad also claimed the “cell” was linked to an assassination attempt on a Pakistani military officer in Lahore earlier this year.
Other newspapers claimed the detainees were “suspected al-Qaeda militants” trained in Afghanistan and Iran who had been working secretly in Pakistan for the past three years – not the case with Ganchi and Ismail.
On July 29 came the revelation that one detainee was believed to be on the US’s list of most wanted terrorists. Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, of Tanzania was hunted around the globe over the 1998 al-Qaeda bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam that left more than 200 people dead. Ghailani had a bounty of $25-million on his head.
Ganchi, Ismail and the other four adults were interrogated at a safe-house in Gujrat by a “joint interrogation team” representing all of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. Pakistan has been under intense pressure from the US to prove it is an ally in the “war on terror” and not providing a haven for al-Qaeda cells….
An AFP news agency report on August 3 claimed that Ganchi and Ismail told their interrogators they were planning to carry out attacks on Johannesburg’s main tourist attractions.
But that report – and a claim in May by Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi that eight foreigners, seven of them later deported, were arrested for planning to bomb the British QE2 luxury liner when she docked in South Africa – were rejected by the Intelligence Ministry.
On Friday night Inspector Dennis Adriao, spokesperson for the National Police Commissioner, said Ganchi and Ismail “are free men and they are not being detained”.