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Pakistani religious school releases teens

ATLANTA - Two American-born teens forced by their father to attend a religious school in Pakistan for nearly four years have returned home to Atlanta after a documentary filmmaker pushed for their release.

Noor and Mahboob Khan, now 17 and 16, arrived in Atlanta late Thursday from Jamia Binoria, a prominent madrassa in Karachi. The boys are featured in a new documentary 'Karachi Kids' by filmmaker Imran Raza, set to be released next week.

The boys' father, Fazal Khan, said he sent them to the madrassa because he wanted them exposed to Islam. He said he had tried to bring his sons home but the boys couldn't get exit visas.

'I sent a ticket. But I couldn't get the paperwork,' he said Wednesday. 'I'm responsible for my children.'

A woman who identified herself as the boys' sister answered the phone at the family's Norcross home Friday afternoon. She said her father and brothers weren't home and declined to comment further to The Associated Press.

Raza had been working to get the boys home when U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, a Republican from Texas, got involved. In a July 4 visit to Pakistan, he asked President Pervez Musharraf to release the Khan brothers.

The teens were sent home just a few days later.

Federal Bureau of Investigation spokesman Richard Kolko declined to say whether the agency is questioning the Khan brothers. He said earlier in an e-mailed statement that the FBI helped coordinate the boys' return in conjunction with the U.S. State Department.

In a statement posted on the documentary's Web site Thursday, Raza said he is grateful that Noor and Mahboob are home.

He said hundreds more American children remain in Pakistani madrassas - many of which are considered extremist Muslim schools that indoctrinate students with radical beliefs.

'This pipeline to jihad must be closed,' Raza wrote on the Web site. Raza did not immediately return a call for comment by The Associated Press.

Raza traveled to Karachi after the July 7, 2005, terrorist attack in London that killed 52 subway and bus passengers. There, he found Noor and Mahboob, who had come to the school the previous year.

The documentary follows the brothers, showing how their schooling affected them.

In the documentary's trailer, a young Noor talks about missing his home and family. He said waking up every day and realizing he's in Pakistan is like 'a big punch.'

'You don't know how badly I want to go back,' he said. 'If there was a plane right now, I'd just go step on it and go back to America.'

But after a couple of years in the madrassa, Noor said he is glad his father sent him to the school. He said he doesn't believe Muslims were responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

'Not one Jew died that day. That is what they say,' he says in the film.

Ericka Pertierra, a producer for the documentary, said she hopes to help Noor and Mahboob reacclimate to living in the United States. After becoming involved in the film, Pertierra founded the South Asian Foundation for Education Reform to bring attention to radical madrassas recruiting and indoctrinating American boys with radical ideology.

She said she's identified 200 American boys in 22 madrassas, but there are many more madrassas in Pakistan.