8 terror suspects arrested in Denmark

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http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/09/04/europe/EU-GEN-Denmark-Terror-Arrests.php

Sep 4th, AP.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark: Danish intelligence agents early Tuesday arrested eight alleged Islamic militants with links to leading al-Qaida figures, and said the suspects were plotting an attack involving explosives.

"With the arrests, we have prevented a terror attack," said Jakob Scharf, head of the PET intelligence service. He did not identify the target.

The suspects — six Danish citizens and two foreigners with residence permits — had been under surveillance for some time when they were arrested, he said.

He identified them as "militant Islamists with connections to leading al-Qaida persons. According to our assessment, there is a direct connection to al-Qaida."

The suspects, ages 19 to 29, were not identified. All eight were arrested without incident in pre-dawn raids on 11 locations in and around Copenhagen, including the Ishoej suburb and the Noerrebro district of the capital, authorities said.

The suspects are of Afghan, Pakistani, Somali and Turkish origin, Scharf told reporters. He said Danish investigators had worked with "several foreign cooperation partners" before making the arrests.

Two of the suspects were expected to be arraigned later Tuesday. Scharf declined to say whether more people were being sought.

The TV2 News channel reported that a 19-year-old electrician was arrested in Ishoej, while a taxi driver in his early 20s was arrested in Noerrebro. TV footage shot from a helicopter showed bomb squads and forensics agents at those locations.

In Ishoej, anti-terror police broke down the door of the apartment where a Turkish family was living, Karina Elbaek, who lives on the floor below, told The Associated Press.

"They were ordinary neighbors, really friendly, helpful and extroverted," Elbaek said of the family.

Sadie al-Fatlawi, who lives on the floor above the cab driver in Noerrebro, said police ordered him and other neighbors to leave the building during the raid.

"When we came down to the police van they said that they suspected that there were some explosives in the property, or something that could burn very violently," al-Fatlawi told the AP.

The taxi driver was of Pakistani origin and had recently moved into the building, al-Fatlawi said.

Danish public radio DR identified a third suspect as a man of Afghan origin who had grown a beard and wore traditional Afghan clothing. He lived with parents and his two sisters in Avedoere, another suburb south of the capital, DR said, citing neigbors.

It is the third time Danish police have cracked down on suspected terrorist networks since 2005.

A separate trial of four men suspected of planning to blow up a target in Denmark or elsewhere in Europe is to begin in Copenhagen on Wednesday.

In February, a court sentenced Abdul Basit Abu Lifa, a Danish citizen of Palestinian descent, to seven years in prison for his involvement in a Bosnia-linked plot to blow up a target in Europe. Three other defendants were acquitted, although one is awaiting a retrial.

Terrorists have not hit Denmark in more than two decades, but the July 2005 bombings in London stirred fears that the Scandinavian country could be targeted for its participation in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

Those fears grew after a Danish newspaper published 12 cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, triggering fiery protests in Muslim countries in early 2006. Many Muslims considered the drawings blasphemous.

In June, Denmark pulled out its 460-member army contingent from Iraq and replaced it with a small air force squad.

Scharf said the planned attack did not appear linked to the cartoons or Denmark's involvement in Iraq.

Justice Minister Lene Espersen said the arrests did not change the terror threat against Denmark, although she acknowledged that "an act of terror has been prevented with the nighttime arrests."
 
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