Key figure in plot on U.S. interests extradited to France

Monday, October 1, 2001

Associated Press WriterPARIS (AP) -- A Muslim militant said to be at the center of a plot to attack U.S. interests in France and linked to Osama bin Laden has been extradited from the United Arab Emirates and jailed in Paris, judicial officials said Monday.

Djamel Beghal was being questioned by French anti-terrorism judges following his extradition Sunday, according to officials, who spoke on customary condition of anonymity. French police have quietly linked him to Osama bin Laden, believed to have materminded the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

Beghal, 35, a French-Algerian, was the second person extradited to France in connection with the plot.

British authorities extradited Kamel Daoudi, 27, on Saturday. Daoudi had fled to Britain as French police moved in on seven other people on Sept. 21.

Those arrests were based on information Beghal provided to police in Dubai, where he was arrested in July after returning from a trip to Afghanistan.

He confessed to authorities there of the plot to attack American interests including the U.S. Embassy in Paris. Beghal has been presented here as a leading figure in the plot, and a man with ties to a top aide of bin Laden, the prime suspect in the U.S. attacks.

French Interior Minister Daniel Vaillant said in a radio interview on Sunday that the plot to attack U.S. interests in France was not connected to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Authorities have now tied Beghal to others arrested in the Netherlands and in Belgium. Six Algerians being held in Spain are believed by authorities to have direct links with others arrested in Europe in connection with the plot to attack U.S. interests on the continent, Spanish officials said.

Several people suspected of links to global terrorism were arrested over the past few days in Bosnia, including two who were found with box cutters near Sarajevo's airport, authorities said Monday.

In London Monday, police arrested a 43-year-old man under anti-terrorism legislation but refused to say whether he was suspected of links to the Sept. 11 attacks on Washington and New York.

Authorities there also were continuing to hold a 36-year-old man who was arrested under anti-terrorism laws at London's Gatwick airport.

Separately, police continued to question Lotfi Raissi, an Algerian pilot who prosecutors said is the first overseas suspect to be directly linked to the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes in the United States.

Prosecutors have described Raissi, 27, as a flight instructor for some of the hijackers who flew a plane into the Pentagon. He denies any involvement in the attacks.

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