Danes arrest suspected militants, say terror attack was prevented

September 05, 2007|By Helen Hajjaj and Sebastian Rotella | Helen Hajjaj and Sebastian Rotella,Los Angeles Times

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK -- Danish police arrested eight suspected Islamic militants here yesterday, charging two of them with planning a terror attack and attempted murder in what was described as a serious plot with direct ties to al-Qaida.

Police evacuated a building in the Danish capital before searching an apartment where they reported finding large quantities of explosives materials.

The chief of the police intelligence service held an unusual news conference during which he underscored the urgency of the threat and the suspected foreign connections of the suspects, six of whom hold Danish citizenship.

The arrests "prevented a terrorist attack," said Police Chief Jakob Sharf, who termed the suspects "militant Islamists with international contacts."

"The fact that the suspects have a connection to leading members of al-Qaida is a very significant aspect of this case," Sharf said.

He did not identify the al-Qaida leaders or the target of the suspected plot and disclosed few details.

The accusations of foreign links reiterated the fears of Western counterterrorism officials about a resurgence in the leadership of al-Qaida, which during the past year is suspected of training Western Europeans in clandestine facilities near the Pakistani-Afghan border and dispatching them on missions to attack their homelands.

Fears have been particularly high in Germany, where anti-terrorism agencies have arrested or detected extremists who have traveled to Pakistan for training. The militant cells in Germany have been linked to extremists in neighboring Denmark.

"Al-Qaida has won a foothold after being on the defensive for a period of time," Sharf said.

The two chief suspects, both 21, were identified as a taxi driver of Pakistani origin and a man of Afghan origin. The ethnic backgrounds of the others include Somali and Turkish.

Police released six suspects after questioning them yesterday, but anti-terrorism sources said the six might be arrested again as investigators examine a large quantity of evidence. In keeping with strict privacy laws, authorities did not release any names.

Sharf would not confirm whether the suspected terror attack would have been carried out in Denmark.

Helen Hajjaj and Sebastian Rotella write for the Los Angeles Times.

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