U.S links Algerian held in Canada to bomb plot

Indictment filed

suspect seen as leader of group

January 19, 2000|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

NEW YORK -- An Algerian man arrested in a veil of secrecy in Canada last week was a central figure in a group of Algerian terrorists suspected of planning a bomb attack, federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged last night.

An indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court linked Mokhtar Haouari to another Algerian accused of smuggling bomb parts into the United States near Seattle and to a Brooklyn man identified as an accomplice of the smuggler.

The new indictment traces the plot to 1997, almost two years earlier than the authorities had indicated to this point. Haouari was also charged with providing false identification documents to members of the terrorist group.

In the most explicit link to others already charged in the plot, prosecutors said Haouari ordered the Brooklyn man, Abdel Ghani Meskini, to travel to Seattle in December to meet Ahmed Ressam. Until last night, Meskini had been known as Abdel Ghani.

The bomb plot, authorities have said, was interrupted by Ressam's arrest as he crossed the Canadian border near Seattle, trying to bring explosives and bomb components into the United States.

Haouari, 31, was arrested in Montreal on Jan. 10 by Canadian authorities. He was held in Montreal under a warrant seeking his extradition to the United States, where he will face charges in New York.

Investigators say Haouari is one of a handful of people they are most interested in as they try to untangle a plot whose tentacles have reached from Canada into New York, Boston, Vermont and Seattle.

One of the questions for investigators has been who ordered the plot, which the authorities believe was being carried out by Algerian Islamic militants affiliated with an organization known as the Armed Islamic Group, or GIA.

Meskini was also charged in last night's indictment.

The new indictment does not say whether Haouari, who was seeking political asylum in Canada, was a member of the GIA, or for whom he may have been working.

But it does place him at the center of activities on two coasts, which now appear even more coordinated, in what the authorities believe was an effort to detonate a bomb somewhere in the United States.

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