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Alleged al-Qaida Duo Face German Judge

  • Roger Wilkison

A German federal judge is expected to rule whether there is enough evidence to hold two suspected members of the al-Qaida terrorist group, who were arrested in Germany on Sunday. German police say the two men were planning a suicide bombing in Iraq.

Prosecutors are asking the judge to hold the two men, one an Iraqi, the other a Libya-born Palestinian, on charges of belonging to a foreign terrorist organization.

Chief federal prosecutor Kay Nehm told reporters that the men were picked up after raids on four houses in the cities of Mainz and Bonn. He says they had been under surveillance since last October.

"The two accused are a 29-year-old Iraqi, Ibrahim Mohammed K., who has been living in Mainz, and a 31-year-old stateless Palestinian who was born in Libya and lived in Bonn, Yasser Abu S."

Both men were identified only by their first names because German privacy laws do not allow the surnames of suspects in criminal cases to be disclosed.

Mr. Nehm says the Iraqi man is suspected of having trained in al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan and fighting U.S. troops there. The prosecutor says the Iraqi had contact with al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and with Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a Yemeni who was the liaison between al-Qaida and the Hamburg-based hijackers who carried out the September 11, 2001 suicide attacks against the United States. Ramzi bin al-Shibh is now in American custody.

Mr. Nehm, the prosecutor, says he believes that al-Qaida leaders decided that Ibrahim Mohammed K., the Iraqi, would be more useful as a recruiter than as a suicide bomber.

"Because he had a German travel document and was able to travel freely in the European Union, he was supposed to use Germany as a base to recruit new members, especially people willing to carry out suicide attacks as well as to organize funding and logistics," said Mr. Nehm.

Investigators say the Iraqi recruited the Palestinian, Yasser Abu S., to carry out a suicide attack in Iraq. They say the two men planned to fake the Palestinian's death in a car accident in Egypt and then claim over $1 million from a life insurance policy. According to the plan, most of the money would go to fund the suicide attack and other so-called Jihad missions.

Mr. Nehm says the Iraqi also sought to buy uranium from a contact in Luxembourg, which turned out not to be suitable for a bomb.

Prosecutors say there is no evidence the suspects planned to carry out any attacks in Germany, though their arrest in Mainz on Sunday occurred a month before President Bush is to visit the city for talks with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.