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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Danish police arrest 9 terror suspects

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP)- Police in Denmark on Tuesday arrested nine people suspected of plotting a terror attack with materials they acquired to build explosives, intelligence officials said.

Justice Minister Lene Espersen called the case "very serious," and said the group had been under surveillance for some time. "It is among the worst that has happened in Denmark," she told the TV2 channel, without providing any details.

Lars Findsen, head of the Danish Security Intelligence Service, said the suspects had acquired materials to build explosives "in connection with the preparation of a terror act," without elaborating. He did not reveal the planned target of the attack and said it was hard to evaluate how far the plot had come along.

"With the general terror situation, the Danish Security Intelligence Service didn't want to run any unnecessary risk," Findsen said.

He said the suspects — one ethnic Dane and eight people with immigrant backgrounds, all between the ages of 18 and 33 — would face a custody hearing later Tuesday in Odense, 100 miles west of Copenhagen. Espersen said all nine were Danish citizens.

The suspects were arrested early Tuesday in Vollsmose, a mostly immigrant suburb west of Odense, Denmark's third-largest city.

Denmark raised its terror preparedness after the attacks on London's transit system in July 2005 and the protests across the Middle East and Asia earlier this year over controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that were first published in a Danish newspaper.

Tuesday's arrests would not prompt the Scandinavian country to raise its terror alert again, Findsen said.

The sweep came nearly two weeks after four young Muslims were charged in Copenhagen in connection with a Bosnian terror probe. Investigators said the network planned to blow up a target in a European country to force the withdrawal of foreign troops from
Afghanistan and

The four men, who have not been identified, were charged with helping to provide weapons and explosives to two men arrested in Bosnia. The four have denied any wrongdoing.

Police did not say if the new arrests were related to that case.

Findsen said, however, the arrests were not related to a terror investigation in Germany in which four Lebanese suspects are being held in connection with a failed train bombing attempt.

German media claimed one of the suspects, Youssef Mohamad el Hajdib, who was arrested Aug. 19 in the northern German city of Kiel, was heading to Denmark. German and Danish media reported German police found a telephone number in his pockets for Abu Bashar, an imam living in Odense.

Abu Bashar has denied knowing el Hajdib but told newspaper Fyens Stifitstidende that it was a matter of time before terrorists would strike Denmark.

"I fear a terror attack in Denmark because there are Danish troops in Iraq," he was quoted as saying.

Terrorists have not hit Denmark in 20 years, but the 2005 London transit bombings stirred fears that the Scandinavian country could be targeted for its participation in the Iraq and Afghanistan coalition forces. Denmark has about 500 troops in Iraq and 360 more in Afghanistan as part of the
NATO-led force.

In 1985, a bomb exploded outside the offices of North West Orient airlines in Copenhagen, killing one person and wounding 16. Three Palestinians were convicted in the attack and sentenced to life in prison.
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