Bogota, Colombia — Colombia insisted Friday that a false-passport ring it dismantled may have links to al-Qaida and Hamas, despite U.S. doubts about the counterfeiters' connection to the terrorist groups.
Colombian officials said Thursday the gang supplied citizens from Pakistan, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and other countries with false passports and Colombian nationality without them ever setting foot in the country.
Acting Atty. Gen. Jorge Armando Otalora said some of the 19 people arrested were wanted for working with al-Qaida and the militant Palestinian group.
U.S. officials expressed surprise at the announcement of the investigation, which they said involved people posing as members of Colombia's largest rebel army, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
"We are not alleging any connections to any terror organization other than the FARC," U.S. Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra said.
But Otalora told the Associated Press on Friday: "The extradition request we received from the United States says eight of those arrested Thursday are suspected of having links with international terrorist groups."