European authorities continue crackdown on terrorist suspects
MADRID, Spain (AP) – Europe continued to crack down on suspected terrorists Wednesday, making arrests in Spain, Britain and the Netherlands in an effort to link Osama bin Laden to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
In Spain, police detained six Algerians on Tuesday and Wednesday who allegedly are linked to bin Laden, the chief suspect in the suicide jet attacks, and to a group suspected of planning attacks on U.S. targets in Europe.
In Britain, authorities captured a French national on Tuesday who was allegedly involved in a plot to attack U.S. interests in Europe. France placed seven other suspects in the case under formal investigation on Tuesday, a step before being charged.
Authorities say the eight all are believed to have ties to bin Laden. Evidence found during arrests in France last week suggest the suspects were part of a group scouting out European locations for attacks, with the U.S. Embassy in Paris a prime target, French news reports said.
In the Netherlands, police arrested an Iraqi man suspected of belonging to a radical Muslim network planning attacks, Dutch news reports said Wednesday.
Authorities declined to confirm the Dutch reports. They said the suspect, who was arrested Monday, faced the same charges as four other men detained in Rotterdam Sept. 13 for possessing fraudulent documents.
In Sweden, police have placed some people under surveillance who allegedly went to suspected terrorist training camps in Afghanistan linked to bin Laden.
The six people detained in Spain allegedly belong to a dissident faction of the Armed Islamic Group, Algeria’s most hard-line insurgency movement, Interior Minister Mariano Rajoy said.
The six Algerians have not been charged but ”evidently had serious connections with international terrorism and were financially connected with terrorist bin Laden’s organization,” Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar told reporters.
The Algerians appeared to be responsible for sending optical, electronic, computer and communications equipment to colleagues in Algeria, as well as camping material to Chechnya, Rajoy said. Russia maintains that separatist rebels in Chechnya are Islamic extremists aided by foreign terrorist groups.
Spanish police found forged passports and sophisticated computer equipment used to produce fake documents, and airline tickets for trips to Algeria and France, Rajoy said.
The state news agency Efe identified the six Algerians as group leader Mohamed Boualem Khnouni, Mohamed Belaziz, Yasin Seddiki, Hakim Zerzour, Madjid Sahouane and Hocine Khouni.
Meanwhile, in Britain, police got a 48-hour extension Wednesday to continue interrogating two men arrested in connection with the World Trade Center attacks. Lotfi Raissi and Abu Imard were arrested on Friday, along with another man and a woman who have been released.
British authorities also were investigating reports that some of the suicide hijackers may have passed through Britain on their way to the United States, said David Verness, assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.
Also in Britain, police arrested six Iraqis found hiding Wednesday in a truck parked outside a Royal Air Force base used by U.S. fighter jets. The German driver of the truck was also arrested. But the ties to terrorism were unclear. A police spokesman said the six could have just been illegal immigrants who mistakenly ended up at the base.
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