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Bosnia gives U.S. six suspected terrorists
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- Six Arab men with suspected ties to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network and other terrorist groups were turned over to U.S. forces Friday and could become the first prisoners sent from outside Afghanistan to the U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Their handover after a dramatic showdown in the capital, Sarajevo, came as suspected members of bin Laden's network were detained in Britain and the Philippines. Greece, host of the 2004 Olympic Games, announced that intelligence information provided by the Lebanese had revealed that al-Qaida was planning to carry out an attack in Greece.
The six Algerians in Bosnia, who had been rounded up after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks blamed on al-Qaida, posed what the U.S. military described as a "significant threat."
A senior U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States would transfer the men to Cuba, where 110 al-Qaida and Taliban prisoners captured in Afghanistan are being held.
Moving them out of Bosnian custody proved complicated and violent. A ruling by the country's highest court late Thursday to release the Algerians due to a lack of evidence was ignored by local authorities determined to hand them over to U.S. custody.
Rumors that the men were headed for Cuba brought out streams of relatives and supporters determined to block the prison transfer. After three unsuccessful attempts by Bosnian forces to clear the area for the transport vans, police using batons lashed out at the crowd, beating back anyone unwilling to move quietly. None of the injuries were serious.
The wife of one detainee, Budelah Hadz, promised to take the decision to other courts, such as the European Court of Human Rights.
"We will not stop until justice is done and those responsible for this are behind bars," Nadja Dizdarevic said. "My husband is innocent and that's what the court here said."
U.S. refuses to make case
Prosecutors in Bosnia had appealed to the U.S. government to come forward with evidence against the suspects, since their detention was based on Western intelligence information.
But U.S. authorities refused, requesting instead that the Bosnians make the case themselves, a senior U.S. official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The suspects were accused of involvement with the Armed Islamic Group -- an Algerian terrorist organization -- or with the Egyptian al-Gamaa al-Islamiya group.
One of the men, Bensayah Belkacem, was arrested based on foreign intelligence reports that he allegedly made telephone calls to a bin Laden aide.
The others, Mustafa Adir, Sabir Lamar, Muhamed Nehle, Lakdar Bumedien and Hadz, were rounded up after British and U.S. officials in Bosnia briefly closed their embassies here, citing credible security threats.
Most of the men worked for various Islamic humanitarian agencies and one of them held Algerian, Bosnian and Yemeni passports, officials said. Another suspect allegedly had a relative working for the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo.
"The Bosnian and United States governments do not take actions like this without credible information on terrorist activities or ties," a U.S. military statement said.
But human rights groups said that wasn't enough to flout the courts.
"We are now in a really dramatic situation," said Srdjan Dizdarevic, head of the Helsinki Committee in Bosnia, a human rights group. "The functioning of the rule of law in the country and the status of all of us as citizens is threatened."
The handover drama was played out as Britain and several other countries made arrest sweeps of suspects believed connected to al-Qaida. By Friday, 17 suspects were in British custody for suspected terrorist activities or immigration offenses and two Algerians were charged with al-Qaida membership.
In Greece on Friday, Foreign Minister George Papandreou said intelligence information provided by the Lebanese had revealed that al-Qaida was planning to carry out an attack in Greece. He did not provide details but said Greece was on alert.
Elsewhere, Philippine authorities on Friday arrested an Indonesian man they say has confessed to involvement in December, 2000 bombings in Manila that killed 22 people. Singapore believes Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi Al-Ghozi is one of the key leaders of the Jemaah Islamiyah, a violent group that operates across Southeast Asia and has ties to al-Qaida.