France arrests ‘important’ Al-Qaeda suspect

18th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 17 (AFP) - An Algerian suspected of belonging to the Al-Qaeda network and of having links with extremists in France and Germany was remanded in custody in Paris on Thursday evening, only hours after being extradited from Syria, a source close to the case told AFP.

PARIS, June 17 (AFP) - An Algerian suspected of belonging to the Al-Qaeda network and of having links with extremists in France and Germany was remanded in custody in Paris on Thursday evening, only hours after being extradited from Syria, a source close to the case told AFP.  

Algerian Said Arif, 38, appeared before France's top anti-terrorist judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere shortly after 9 pm and was placed under investigation for "criminal conspiracy in connection with a terrorist enterprise", the source said. He was then remanded in custody.  

"This is one of the most important (suspects) that we've obtained for several years," another source close to the investigation said.  

French anti-terrorist experts said Arif, who also uses the names Sliman Chabani and Abderrahman, held a position of "certain importance" in the Al-Qaeda network.  

The French foreign ministry said earlier that both French and foreign investigators had been looking for him "for several months... in connection with Chechen networks".  

France set up an inquiry in November 2002 into groups suspected of recruiting fighters to take part in the war in Chechnya between separatist rebels and the Russian army.  

In the course of that investigation, an underground group allegedly composed of Islamic radicals was uncovered in a Paris suburb. The French authorities suspected members of the group of plotting one or several attacks in France.   Arif is suspected of having close ties to members of this group, made up of more than 20 individuals currently being held in French jails.  

The ministry said he was a native of Oran in Algeria and served as a lieutenant in the Algerian army before deserting.  

He went to Afghanistan, where he reportedly trained in Al-Qaeda camps, then had "close ties with the so-called Frankfurt (Germany) group, dismantled in December 2000, which was planning to commit an attack on a Christmas market" in the northeastern French city of Strasbourg, the ministry said.  

French judicial sources said Arif was "close" to Jordanian Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, accused by the United States of being the author of several attacks in Iraq, including the suicide bomb attack on the Iraqi army recruitment centre earlier on Thursday in which 36 people died. 

Zarqawi is thought to be Al-Qaeda's expert on toxic substances and chemical agents.  

Arif's lawyer, Felix de Bellois, told AFP that statements that his client had made while in detention in Syria should be examined with great care.  

"Said Arif was detained for a year in Syria under very difficult conditions. Statements made during that year of detention should be dealt with extremely cautiously," de Bellois said. He declined to give details.


© AFP

Subject: French news

 

 

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