Austrian police hold Chechen in Belgium attack probe

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Austrian police are holding a Chechen thought to be linked to an Islamist network suspected of plotting an attack on a NATO facility in Belgium, the interior ministry said Saturday.

A ministry spokesman told Oe1 radio the man had been arrested Wednesday at Vienna's Schwechat airport on suspicion of giving logistical support to the network.

The spokesman said he had been picked up on an international arrest warrant issued by Belgium on suspicion of helping to prepare an attack on NATO facilities.

The daily Kronenzeitung said he lived with his wife and two children in Neunkirchen, in southern Austria, and was a supporter of Doku Umarov, leader of the so-called Caucasus Emirate, a Chechen rebel group.

The daily Kurier said he had been arrested on his return from a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Belgian authorities said on Tuesday police had rounded up 11 people in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands suspected of plotting an attack in Belgium and recruiting candidates and funds for the Caucasus Emirate.

A spokeswoman said Wednesday that "their exact target (in Belgium) had not been determined" on their arrest.

Umarov for years has led a rebellion that has morphed from a separatist insurgency seeking independence for Chechnya from Moscow to a broader Islamist movement looking to establish an "Emirate" across the Caucasus mountains.

The Caucasus Emirate claimed this year's attacks on the Moscow metro that killed 40 people.

Austria is home to one of the biggest expatriate communities of Chechens, numbering some 20,000. According to Austrian intelligence they are split between supporters of Umarov and of Chechnya's Russian-backed president Ramzan Kadyrov.

A Vienna court is currently trying three men for the 2009 murder in the city of Chechen dissident Umar Israilov, which Austrian police allege was ordered by Kadyrov.

Europe has been on high alert for several weeks over heightened concerns of possible terror attacks.

© 2010 AFP

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