Last updated: July 8, 2010 8:03 pm

Al-Qaeda suspects held in Oslo and Germany

Police on Thursday arrested three alleged members of an al-Qaeda cell in Norway and Germany, as authorities linked a supposed bombing plot in western Europe with other attempts in the US and the UK.

Three men in their thirties, of Chinese-Uighur, Iraqi-Kurdish and Uzbek origin, were arrested. Two were apprehended in Oslo and the third was picked up in Germany.

Two are foreign citizens with Norwegian residency permits while the Uighur man is a naturalised Norwegian citizen, the police said.

“We believe this group has had links to people abroad who can be linked to al-Qaeda, and to people who are involved in investigations in other countries, among others the United States and Britain,” said Janne Kristiansen, director of Norway’s police intelligence unit.

She said the three latest detainees were being held under Norway’s anti-terrorism law and declined to specify the precise nature of their alleged crimes or to identify them beyond their ethnic origins.

“They were planning an act of terror, full stop. We do not want to say anything about where,” she said.  

But unconfirmed reports in Norwegian media said that the trio were practising the assembly of acetone-peroxide bombs – the same type of explosives that were used in the London bombings of July 7, 2005. 

The arrests came a day after the US Department of Justice announced charges against five alleged members of an al-Qaeda cell plotting to attack the US and the UK. The US charges link Najibullah Zazi, the confessed attempted New York subway bomber, and people arrested on terrorism charges in Manchester, England.

They track both cases back to senior al-Qaeda leadership and to military style training the organisation provided in 2008 in Waziristan, Pakistan – an area where the US says “core al-Qaeda” is based.

Those accused in the US’s 10-count indictment include Adnan El Shukrijumah, who the US says was a leader of al-Qaeda’s “external operations programme” focusing on attacks in the US and other western countries.

The US indictment says that Mr El Shukrijumah recruited Mr Zazi to conduct suicide bombings in New York with bombs made of hydrogen peroxide, acetone, flour and oil. 

Two of the other charged by the US – Abid Naseer and Tariq Ur Rehman, had previously arrested been in Manchester, where they were found with large quantities of flour and oil as well as surveillance photos of local public areas. Although they were never charged and later released, Mr Naseer was arrested again on Wednesday and is now awaiting extradition to the US.

A further defendant in the US, described as “Ahmad”, “Sohaib” or “Zahid”, was allegedly in e-mail contact with both Mr Zazi and Mr Naseer. 

The US indictment adds that the plot involving Mr Zazi was also organised by Saleh al-Somali and Rashid Rauf, two other al Qaeda “external operations” leaders. The British born Mr Rauf was arrested in Pakistan in relation to a 2006 plot to blow up transatlantic flights but the terrorism charges were later dropped. Some reports have suggested he was later killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan.


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