Suspect Confirms France Targeted by Terrorists

Published September 20th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

An Algerian-born suspect arrested in the United Arab Emirates in July has confirmed that terrorists planned to attack US interests in France prior to last week's airliner suicide bombings, the daily Le Monde reported Thursday. 

The newspaper said the suspect, Djamel Begal, who has dual French and Algerian citizenship, had told investigators that among the sites targeted was the US embassy in Paris. 

The daily said telephone taps and surveillance operations in Paris had confirmed in August that there was a threat and had led to a preliminary investigation being opened on September 11, one day before the deadly attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon near Washington. 

According to investigators in Belgium, a plan of the embassy in Paris was found in police raids there. 

Last Thursday Belgian police also arrested four men suspected of belonging to radical Islamic groups. 

Although the planned attacks in France have not been linked to the airliner suicide bombings in the United States, Le Monde said Begal had direct contact with the headquarters of Osama bin Laden, the chief suspect in the bombings. 

Le Monde said Begal had also traveled several times to training camps in Afghanistan run by bin Laden. His last trip there dates back to three years ago and since then he had been living in Germany and Britain, the newspaper said. 

"He apparently was an important link in a group whose main task was to attack US interests in France and which had connections throughout Europe," the paper said.  

It said French authorities were seeking to quickly bring him back to France as his detention in Dubai could be legally challenged -- PARIS (AFP)

© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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