6 suspected of terror plans detained in Germany

Men are questioned and released, police say

July 04, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BERLIN - Police in Hamburg, Germany, questioned an associate of the presumed ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States and five other men yesterday because of suspicions that they were planning unspecified new attacks.

One of the detained men, Abdelghani Mzoudi, 29, shared an apartment at 54 Marienstrasse in Hamburg with the ringleader, Mohamed Atta, and other suspects in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, according to the police and prosecutors.

Mzoudi, a Moroccan student and longtime associate of Atta, had been under surveillance since the September attacks. The police said yesterday that he was suspected of providing unspecified assistance to Atta and other members of the Hamburg cell involved in the attacks.

Mzoudi and the other men were taken into custody during early morning raids on six apartments and a bookstore next to the main mosque in Hamburg. The men, who come from Morocco, Egypt and Afghanistan, were released after questioning, said Reinhard Fallak, a spokesman for the Hamburg police.

They belong to a group of at least eight Islamic militants suspected of forming a terrorist cell to carry out new attacks, the police and prosecutors said. Another suspect was questioned in Italy; the police said the eighth had not been located yet.

The police said no specific target for the suspected attacks had been identified. Under German law the police had no grounds to detain the men further but are continuing their investigation.

The raids were conducted after telephone wiretaps picked up conversations in which some of the men expressed a willingness to commit suicide attacks.

The group met regularly at the Attawhid bookstore near Al Quds mosque, police said. The mosque is a center for Islamic militants and is believed by U.S. authorities to have been used to recruit Atta and others involved in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Atta, who flew one of the airliners that hit the World Trade Center, has been described by American authorities as the ringleader. He and others implicated in the plot attended Al Quds, where they often heard Arab veterans of fighting in Afghanistan and Bosnia extol the virtues of war against the United States and Israel.

Mzoudi also belonged to the mosque. In 1996 he was one of two witnesses who signed Atta's will. The other signer, Mounir el-Motassadeq, was arrested in November by German police on suspicion of involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks.

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