NEW YORK - Two 16-year-old girls living in New York have been detained since last month on immigration violations amid concerns they were potential recruits for a suicide bomb plot that never materialized, officials said Thursday.
The girls â€” one from Bangladesh, one from Guinea â€” were picked up by authorities on March 24 and put in a detention center, the officials said.
Details about the case, first reported Thursday by The New York Times, were sketchy, and a supporter of one of the girls claimed the accusations were false.
The Times cited a government document that said the FBI believed the girls posed “an imminent threat to the security of the United States based upon evidence that they plan to be suicide bombers.”
Two law enforcement officials, both speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the case is pending, confirmed the content of the document, but suggested that it may have exaggerated the threat.
Investigators were concerned that girls might be recruited sometime in the future for a suicide mission by a suspect in an ongoing terrorism investigation, one of the officials said. They decided to detain the pair before they could become involved, the official added.
The law enforcement officials declined to discuss the terrorism investigation. Calls to the FBI’s New York office were not immediately returned.
Marc A. Raimondi, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, would confirm only that two juveniles had been arrested on “administrative immigration violations” and remain in federal custody.
Adem Carroll, a community activist with the Islamic Circle of North America, told the Times one of the girls had been arrested after she stopped attending public high school in September. Federal immigration agents investigated her home and discovered an essay about suicide and Islam on her computer, Carroll said.
The case seemed to be “an investigation that’s gotten out of hand, like a lot of other so-called terror investigations,” Carroll told the paper.
Carroll did not immediately return calls for comment on Thursday.