Germans seize terror suspect




By Mark Huband, Security Correspondent

Financial Times, 29 November 2003

German police yesterday arrested the suspected leader of a group allegedly linked to al-Qaeda, who security officials said might have been planning to send fighters from Europe to attack coalition forces in Iraq.

The team of suspected recruiters was unearthed in Italy, where four people were also arrested yesterday, Italian officials said.

The group was allegedly led by Mahjub Abderrazak, known as “the sheikh”, who was arrested in the north German city of Hamburg.

Italian police said he might be linked to a Jordanian chemical weapons expert, Abu Musab al-Zarkawi, who heads the al-Tawhid extremist group.

Mr Zarkawi, thought to be in Iraq, is said by western intelligence officials to have run an al-Qaeda training camp in the Afghan city of Herat before the fall of the Taliban regime.

He was also known to have received medical treatment in Baghdad before the fall of Saddam Hussein, and was singled out by Colin Powell, the US secretary of state, as proof that a link existed between al-Qaeda and the former Iraqi regime.

Mr Abderrazak was arrested by German police in July, on suspicion of plotting to bomb Spanish holiday resorts, but he was later released for lack of evidence. A German state prosecutor said yesterday he was to be extradited to Italy in a case that had a “terrorist background”. The four other suspects were arrested in northern Italy.

“We’re talking about true combatants who have come back from missions and are in constant movement, looking for extremists prepared to carry out suicide attacks,” one Italian official told Reuters.

Detectives in Britain were last night searching six addresses in Birmingham following the arrest of a 33-year-old man suspected of involvement in terrorism, Scotland Yard said.

Police also continued the search of a house where explosives were found on Thursday, after the arrest of Sajid Badat, 24, who is being held under the Terrorism Act.

Security officials say he may have been associated with Richard Reid, the “shoebomber”, serving a life sentence in the US after trying to detonate a bomb in his shoe during a transatlantic flight in December 2001.


© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2008