France/Italy: Al-Qaeda cell investigation

France/Italy: Al-Qaeda cell investigation

Two days after Knack magazine published a report on Jihadi networks in Antwerp, mentioning similar networks in Brussels and Liege, the Belgian and French security forces moved to act against a suspected al-Qaeda cell.  Some of the people named in the article are now charged with terrorism.  Any connection?

A year and a half ago Moez Garsalloui and Malika El Aroud were found guilty of incitement in Switzerland.  Both were let off with a slap on the wrist.  They are now charged in Belgium with having organized an al-Qaeda cell which had a suicide bomber ready to go.


A French-Tunisian man appeared in court today on suspicions related to the French-Belgian investigation into the "Afghan networks connected to al-Qaeda".  The man was arrested Thursday in France.

The 28 year old is prosecuted for 'criminal association in relation with a terrorist network'.  He will appear before the judge who would decide whether he should stay in detention, as demanded by the prosecution.

The man is suspected of having assisted in the propaganda website Minbar, based in Belgium.  the site was shut down by the authorities.

The site extolled al-Qaeda, delivered practical information for young candidates about taking part in Jihad, or to possible sponsors to support the goal, according to a judicial source.

The man admitted that he worked as a moderator for the site, but denies that he had an active role in the departure of jihadists to Afghanistan.

At least 8 people, six of whom are Belgians and two French, had used the site to prepare for their departure to Afghanistan.

The man, who is married and lives in Grenoble, was arrested Thursday in this city.  Another man was arrested in Amiens and was placed in temporary detention in this case.  He was freed in the meantime.

Fourteen people, suspected of belonging to an al-Qaeda network, were arrested Thursday in the scope of the same investigation in Brussels and Liege.  Among them one man who appeared to be on the point of committing a suicide attack.

Six of them, five men and one woman, were accused Friday of membership in a terrorist group and placed in detention.

Among them was also Malika El Aroud, the widow of the man who murdered commander Massoud on September 9th, 2001, and her second husband, Moez Garsalloui (Garsallaoui), the central figure of the group which was dismantled and the owner of the Minbar website.


The Italian anti-terrorism unit of the police is investigating a possible link between two  Belgian, among them an imam, who was arrested in Italy a month ago on charges of illegal immigration and the suspects who were arrested for possible membership in al-Qaeda, reports Italian news agency Ansa.

Imam Bassam Ayachi and a Belgian citizen were arrested on November 11th in the port city of Bari on charges of illegal immigration.  Three Palestinians and two Syrians were found in their vehicle, which came from Greece.  In his interrogation the imam made no secret of his admiration for Mohammed Atta, leader of the 9/11 attacks.  He had named his six year old son after him.  His son was with him at the time of his arrest and was placed in an institution, according to Ansa.

The magistrate tasked with the investigation, Roberto Rossi, and the Belgian embassy refused to comment further about the case.  During his visit to New, minister of Internal Affairs Roberto Maroni said that the two arrests were related to the operations against the suspected terrorists in Belgium.  He also refused to give more details.

Source: HLN 1, 2 (Dutch)

See also: Belgium: "Mother of al-Qaeda in Europe" saved by Belgian secret service, Antwerp: The Jihadis of Antwerp North (1), Antwerp: The Jihadis of Antwerp North (2), Belgium: Al-Qaeda cell apprehended, Switzerland: Islamist website owners found guilty

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