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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Lebanon arrests fourth suspect in German bomb case

BEIRUT, Sept 2 (Reuters) - The Lebanese authorities have arrested a fourth suspect in connection with a plan to bomb two trains in Germany and have filed preliminary charges against five Lebanese and a Syrian, judicial sources said on Saturday.

Four of the Lebanese are in Lebanese custody, while one Lebanese and the Syrian are in Germany, they added.

They face charges of attempted mass murder in passenger trains in Germany and attempted arson, they said.

The sources named the fourth suspect as Khalil al-Bubbu but gave no details of his arrest. The others are Jihad Hamad, Khaled Kheireddin al-Hajj, Ayman Hawa, Youssef al-Hajj and Fadi al-Saleh, the Syrian. The last two are in Germany.

The head of Germany's BND foreign intelligence service, Ernst Uhrlau, is in Beirut and has discussed the case with the Lebanese authorities, the sources said. Extraditing the men to Germany is out of the question under Lebanese law, they added.

Germany has said that Uhrlau will also do what he can to help secure the release of two Israeli soldiers abducted by the Lebanese guerrilla group Hizbollah on the border in July.

Hizbollah has said it will set them free only as part of a prisoner exchange including Arabs held by Israel.

The latest legal step falls short of the formal indictment process, which comes at a later stage, and the investigations could turn up other suspects, the sources said.

The Lebanese authorities arrested Ayman Hawa on Aug. 28 based on information provided by Hamad and Khaled al-Hajj. Hawa is in his 20s and from the northern town of Akkar.

Hamad, a 20-year-old student, turned himself in to authorities earlier and confessed to planting a suitcase bomb. Investigations suggested he might have links with al Qaeda.

Youssef al-Hajj, 21, was identified in Germany on security camera footage that appeared to show him dragging a suitcase into a train in Cologne in July.

Suitcases like those in the footage were found packed with propane gas tanks and crude detonating devices on trains in Dortmund and Koblenz.

A German newspaper said on Friday the two failed attempts had originally been planned for the soccer World Cup.

The Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung cited security sources as saying interrogation of the suspects had established that the would-be bombers had abandoned the original plan as they had considered the implications of such an attack.

Under Lebanese law, the charges could carry a penalty of life imprisonment with hard labour.
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