ISLAMABAD - Pakistani police will ask a court to charge five Americans detained in the country this month with planning terrorist attacks and jail them for life, a police official said on Thursday.

The young Americans, from Virginia, are accused of contacting militants groups over the Internet in a bid to wage holy war. Pakistani officials have said the Taliban had planned to use them to carry out attacks inside U.S. ally Pakistan.

A joint investigation team has concluded its probe and we'll present them before a court on January 4 to seek life imprisonment sentences under anti-terrorist laws, said Usman Anwar, police chief in Sargodha, where the men were arrested.

We'll prove in the court that their aim was just to spread terrorism under the garb of jihad and for that, they were in touch with Taliban and other Arab militants in tribal areas.

Pakistan's Pashtun tribal lands bordering Afghanistan are known sanctuaries for al Qaeda and Taliban militants who fled the U.S.-led assault on Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks on United States.

Washington is pushing Pakistan to root out militants who cross the border to attack U.S.- and NATO-led forces in Afghanistan.

Emails showed that the Americans had plans to travel to a Pakistani nuclear power plant, according to police.

The case has illustrated how easy it is for anyone to pursue dreams of joining militant jihad through cyber channels, a worrying reality for Pakistan, already struggling on the ground to contain a Taliban insurgency.

The men -- two are of Pakistani ancestry, one of Egyptian, one of Yemeni and one of Eritrean -- were arrested in Sargodha, home to one of Pakistan's biggest airbases, 190 km (120 miles) southeast of Pakistani capital Islamabad.
Some analysts say the case of the Americans reflects a new strategy by militants to try to avoid tighter security measures by forming networks on the Internet.

They were found with maps and had intended to travel through northwest Pakistan to an al Qaeda and Taliban militant stronghold, officials said.

(Editing by Michael Georgy)