French Al-Qaeda suspect 'hid in Japan after 9/11'

19th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

TOKYO, May 19 (AFP) - A Frenchman linked by the United States to Al-Qaeda hid in Japan for about a year after the September 11 attacks, suggesting the existence of terror-linked networks here, reports said Wednesday.

TOKYO, May 19 (AFP) - A Frenchman linked by the United States to Al-Qaeda hid in Japan for about a year after the September 11 attacks, suggesting the existence of terror-linked networks here, reports said Wednesday.

Japanese police suspect Lionel Dumont, 33, was involved in raising funds, money laundering and forming a terrorist network in Japan, all major papers including Japan's top-selling daily Yomiuri Shimbun said, quoting unnamed police sources.

Dumont belonged to Al-Qaeda's logistics arm and Japanese authorities were shocked to learn that the country could have become "a breeding ground for terrorist acts", Kyodo News agency said.

Spokesmen for the Public Safety Commission, which deals with terrorist threats in Japan, the police in Niigata, where Dumont was reported to have stayed, and the National Police Agency all declined to comment.

However, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda appeared to treat the reports about Dumont as fact. "We must find out what footholds he had and whether he was going in and out of Japan," he told a regular news conference.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told a parliament committee that the country "must establish the system to prevent terrorists from sneaking into Japan," which would include information gathering, Jiji Press reported.

It was the first time Japanese authorities had found evidence of a Japanese network centering around a suspected Al-Qaeda member, Kyodo said.

The Frenchman came to Japan in July 2002 after the World Cup finals on a false passport despite the country's stepped-up immigration measures after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, it said.

The papers added that it was the first time a suspected Al-Qaeda member had entered Japan after the attacks.

While in Japan, Dumont stayed with his German wife in Niigata, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Tokyo, working for a used-car dealership run by a Pakistani, the Asahi Shimbun said.

Police learned the Frenchman made constant phone calls to several Iranians and Pakistanis in Tokyo and neighboring Kanagawa prefecture, the Yomiuri Shimbun said.

Dumont made at least four trips to Japan between July 2002 and leaving the country in September 2003, the Asahi and Yomiuri said. Kyodo said Dumont then went to Malaysia.

Dumont is included on a US Treasury Department list published in June 2003 specifying 17 individuals linked to Al-Qaeda whose assets had been frozen.

He was arrested in Germany in December 2003 for non-terrorist offences and is being held pending a decision on an extradition request by France, where, in 2001, he was sentenced in absentia to life in prison for armed robbery.

After dropping out of university, Dumont converted to Islam in 1993 and fought for the Mujahadeen alongside the Bosnian army in Bosnia-Hercegovina.

He returned to France and is suspected of forming the "Roubaix Gang" in 1995, which carried out armed robberies to raise funds for the Islamist cause until he fled a police raid a year later.

In September 2001, Japanese media reported that a foreign intelligence agency had alerted Tokyo that 19 Islamic extremists believed to be Arabs and followers of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden might have entered the country from Pakistan shortly before the September 11 attacks.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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