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Allegations possibly link visitor to terrorism

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - KUAM News first reported that a 50-year-old man came to Guam after spending more than a month in Pakistan, as Steve Vincent Zapata was initially picked up for loitering right outside the Sergeant Frankie E. Smith Police Precinct in Tumon.  Zapata is now in federal custody as authorities try to learn more about why he came to the island and what his true intentions were.

And now, there are new disturbing developments as there are inquiries into whether Zapata has ties to terrorists.

More is being learned about a federal investigation into Zapata, who was picked up on Guam after arriving from Japan and Pakistan.  While the Federal Bureau of Investigation isn't talking, KUAM News has learned inquiries into Zapata's past and plans on Guam have made their way to the Philippines.

The man is suspected of having possible ties to terrorist organizations in South Asia and Southeast Asia.  Zapata is in the custody of U.S. Marshals in relation to a federal complaint charging him with making a false statement to authorities about how many bags he brought to Guam.  Zapata arrived on island on April 13 following a brief stay in Japan and 38 days in Pakistan - a country the U.S. State Department warns its citizens to stay away from because of the prevalence of terrorist groups like the Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The Stockton, California man had previously worked at the Hillsboro Club in Florida has had run-ins with the law for using and being under the influence of controlled substances. He has outstanding traffic warrants in California, but he is now the center of an investigation that has made its way to the Philippines. 

KUAM Philippines correspondent Mike Cohen reports that Zapata is suspected of having possible ties to terrorist groups supporting the Al Qaeda terrorist network. A travel inquiry history was forwarded to counter terrorism officials in the Philippines. According to Cohenm a Philippine National Bureau of Investigation agent assigned to counterterrorism admitted that an inquiry is underway into Zapata's past travel in the region. 

Cohen also reports that police officials said this is common in arrests where individuals are suspected to having met with or been in areas where terrorist groups are active.  Philippine officials and a U.S. diplomatic officer admitted to Cohen that the federal probe is part of preventative security and being thorough as "no one is taking any chances" considering President Barack Obama is scheduled to make a visit to Guam in June.

Zapata arrived on Guam on the 13th and last week he rented a unit at I&E Storage in Tamuning, where he left a black duffle bag.  A bomb detection team, a K-9 unit, National Guard and federal officials executed a search warrant at the storage facility this past Saturday, but the FBI has not disclosed what the bag contains.  Zapata told authorities the bag contained bike parts, Japanese tea, and books.

He remains behind bars awaiting a detention hearing on May 3.

With the proposed military buildup and President Obama's scheduled visit to Guam fast approaching, Guam Homeland Security officials and even Governor Felix Camacho have declined to comment on whether they believe the territory is more a target than ever before for terrorist activity.  Additionally, officials have declined to say what's being done to prevent acts of terrorism on the island and to ensure residents remain vigilant to report any suspicious activity.

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