SARGODHA-- Five Americans detained in Pakistan told a court Monday they intended to cross the border into Afghanistan to wage jihad against Western forces but denied any links to al-Qaida.

"We are not terrorists," one of the five men, Ramy Zamzam, told The Associated Press as he entered the courtroom in the eastern Pakistani city of Sargodha, where they were arrested in December.

"We are jihadists, and jihad is not terrorism," said Zamzam, a 22-year-old Egyptian American who was a dental student at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Jihad has several different meanings in Islam, but Zamzam seemed to be referring to the duty to fight against foreign forces viewed as occupying a Muslim country.

Zamzam and another member of the group, Ethiopian American Ahmed Minni, insisted the men had no links with al-Qaida and were focused only on Afghanistan, according to court documents.

"They said that they only intended to travel to Afghanistan to help their Muslim brothers who are in trouble, who are bleeding and who are being victimized by Western forces," said the group's lawyer, Ameer Abdullah Rokhri.

Pakistani police have not filed formal charges but say they plan to seek life sentences under the country's anti-terrorism law. (AP)