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Islamist extremists arrested in France
Special report: attack on America
Staff and agencies Friday September 21, 2001
French police today arrested a group of Islamist extremists suspected of planning terrorist attacks on American interests in France. An Algerian man under arrest in the United Arab Emirates is believed to have confessed to planning an attack on the US embassy in Paris and provided the names and addresses of co-conspirators.
At least one of the suspects had been in contact with the man and others had been under police surveillance since his arrest in July.
A French judicial source said yesterday that Djamel Begal had "more or less direct links" with the Bin Laden terrorist network. According to Le Monde, information provided by Begal since his detention in the UAE in July was passed on to Dutch, Belgian and French police who had verified that the threat to US interests in Europe was real.
The Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir John Stevens, yesterday said that Britain was the "next biggest target" after America since it was Washington's main ally.
German authorities are today looking for two further suspects in their investigation into possible associates of the terrorists who attacked New York and Washington.
Arrest warrants were issued for Ramzi Binalshibh, a Yemeni national, and Said Bahaji, a German of Moroccan origin. Both are suspected of plotting last week's attacks with three of the hijackers who lived in Hamburg.
They are being sought on charges of forming a terrorist organisation and at least 5,000 counts of murder. The men shared a flat with Mohamed Atta, who the FBI claims piloted the first plane into the World Trade Centre.
The FBI has also issued new warnings to its US regional offices to be on guard against future attacks. Authorities said there was no evidence of a direct threat but rather information that there could be more strikes.
Atlanta, Richmond, Virginia, and Boston last week received warnings from the FBI, but these were later withdrawn.
The American Water Works Association has issued warnings about a possible terrorist threat and the Federal Aviation Administration has issued a notice prohibiting flights in the immediate vicinity of any major sporting event.
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), September 21, 2001