Raids smash terrorist cells

Raids smash terrorist cells

By Joe Baker

By Joe Baker

Senior Editor

Horrible and tragic as the events of Sept. 11 were, the world would have known even greater horror in July if terrorist plans had been successful. Terrorists intended to kill President Bush and many other heads of state with one stroke.

According to a report in The London Times, terrorist organizations planned to use aircraft to wipe out heads of state attending the G8 summit meeting in Genoa, Italy in July.

The paper said, however, that a series of dawn raids from the Costa del Sol in Spain to Leicester in England smashed a chain of terrorist cells involved in the plot. The plan also included an attack on the U.S. embassy in Paris.

Anti-terrorist officers from Scotland Yard, assisted by Leicestershire police and agents of MI5, the British intelligence agency, seized Kamel Daoudi, 23. Daoudi is one of three men held in Leicestershire. He is a suspected master bombmaker in the European wing of Osama bin Laden’s network of radicals.

Daoudi, a key player in bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network, according to The Times, fled from France, where he was to assemble an explosive device to be loaded aboard a helicopter and crashed into the Paris embassy. Daoudi is said to be part of a terrorist cell based in Algeria. European authorities had been keeping the group under surveillance.

Since Sept. 11, some 35 members of this group have been arrested from Yemen to Rotterdam, the paper said. The group is called Tafkir wal Hijira, which means “Anathema and Exile.” The Times said it’s believed the group took its directions from bin Laden.

The European connection is being pieced together after a two-year investigation by police in Britain, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium, according to the paper.

British police said they are hunting up to 100 suspects and witnesses the FBI has linked to the Trade Center attacks.

Security authorities said bin Laden intended to assassinate President Bush and other world leaders at the G8 meeting in Genoa. Anti-aircraft batteries were set up outside the meeting place at the time and drew criticism that officials were over reacting to protesters at the site.

Egyptian President Mubarak, The Times said, reported on June 13 that bin Laden had warned he would assassinate Bush and the other heads of state. “It was a question of an airplane stuffed with explosives,” Mubarak said.

The plot to blow up the Paris embassy was discovered when British authorities arrested Djamel Begal, a former British resident, in Dubai in July. Police said he had a false passport.

Begal, 35, a French citizen from Algeria, reportedly was on his way to Europe from Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he had undergone a year of religious and military training, the paper said. It’s believed Begal spent several months at a training camp run by Abu Zubayda, a member of bin Laden’s inner circle. Zubayda is a suspect in a thwarted terrorist plot in Jordan. He admitted being the link among three terrorist cells in Europe that are affiliated with Tafkir wal Hijira.

Begal’s statements led intelligence agencies to other cells planning coordinated attacks on the U.S. embassy in Paris and the American consulate in Marseilles, the paper said.

On Sept. 12, police rounded up a number of suspects they had been watching. Belgian police nabbed Nizar Trabelsi, a Tunisian, while authorities in The Netherlands detained Jerome Courtellier.

Belgian police reported they found 220 pounds of sulphur and 13 gallons of acetone. Fake passports and plans of the Paris embassy also were seized.

The Times said leaks to the media about pending police raids alerted Daoudi, who fled to Britain, using a fake French passport to gain entry. Telephone chips for mobile phones, computer disks and documents were destroyed by the suspects before police raided their quarters. Raiders reportedly found manuals for flying helicopters and details of air corridors for Paris.

Spanish police, working with the FBI, the CIA and Spanish military intelligence, raided the dwellings of six Algerians thought to be members of bin Laden’s network, the paper said. Police said they found false identity documents and computer materials that could be used to forge plane tickets.

The paper said the six are members of an Algerian Islamic cell called the Salafat Group for Call and Combat. They are one of 27 terrorist groups whose assets have been frozen. Authorities said the six apparently used credit card fraud to finance their activities.

The Times said the six men are linked with Essid Sami ben Khemais, nicknamed “Sabre,” who has been arrested in Italy. He allegedly supervised militants in Milan and Varese. Police said the six suspects also are directly linked to the men held in Belgium and The Netherlands.

Last Friday more than 20 members of an Islamic cell went on trial in Paris. They are accused of financing terrorist activities by drug dealing, racketeering and theft. The paper said the trial will highlight Osama bin Laden’s influence in Europe.

The 24 defendants have been linked to bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network as well as to the GIA (Armed Islamic Group) in Algeria. They are charged with participating in a criminal organization.

Evidence gathered by French counter-espionage agents indicates the group was planning a series of atrocities in France, the paper said. Police said a raid on one defendant’s quarters turned up a drawing showing how to make a home made rocket launcher.

One member of the network, the paper said, Nacer Mettai, told police the group followed the Takfir philosophy of confrontation with the state. He said bin Laden approved of links between the Takfir and the GIA.

French police said the Takfir followers are part of a very large network based in London that serves the GIA, furnishing them with arms and money. Two other suspects are on trial in Paris, accused of membership in a cell formed in Bosnia, which provides terrorists with false passports and identity documents.

That group, the paper said, is headed by Fateh Kamel, 40, who is believed to be close to bin Laden.

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