Algerian is believed to be behind bombings French police identify suspect in wave of attacks


PARIS -- An Algerian Islamic militant living in London is suspected of directing the wave of terrorist bombings that began in France in July, French police said yesterday.

The suspect, Abdelkader Benouif, 36, had been in frequent telephone contact with a suspected accomplice who was arrested in Paris on Wednesday, police said. He was identified as Boualen Bensaid, 28, an Algerian student.

Algerian authorities said that under the pseudonym Abou Fares, Mr. Benouif was closely linked with the outlawed Armed Islamic Group in Algeria. In an Arabic-language fundamentalist newsletter in London, Al Ansar, the group has warned that the bombings will continue until France stops all support for the military-backed government in Algeria and recognizes Islam as the supreme authority there.

Seven people have been killed and nearly 180 wounded since an explosion tore apart a commuter train in Paris July 25. A similar attack Oct. 17 wounded 29 people.

British police said anti-terrorist detectives had yesterday arrested two men -- one of them apparently Mr. Benouif -- in central London, and were questioning them. "We are now in discussions with the French authorities and at this stage cannot elaborate further," a police spokesman said.

Earlier this fall, French police identified Abdelkrim Deneche, who lives in Stockholm and who also is involved with the newsletter, ++ as a suspect in the July 25 bombing. But a Swedish court has refused to extradite him on the ground that he was in Sweden that day, despite contradictory testimony by a French witness.

An Algerian newspaper, El Watan, identified Mr. Benouif as an organizer in the bombing of the Algiers airport in 1992 and said he fled to London in 1993 after being sentenced to death in absentia.

Militant organizations have been battling government forces in Algeria since the authorities canceled elections that Islamic parties were about to win in 1992. Nearly 40,000 people have been killed in assassinations, bombings and battles between troops and the Islamic underground.

France has professed neutrality in the struggle but has made little secret of its hope that no Islamic fundamentalist state would emerge in its former North African territory, which it provides with about $1 billion of economic aid annually.

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