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Report: British Police Arrest Suspect in Masood Assassination - 2001-10-24


British news reports say police in London have arrested an Egyptian man for questioning about the assassination of an Afghan opposition leader.

London police say its anti-terrorist branch arrested a 38-year-old man in west London Tuesday, and he is being questioned in a central London police station. They have not released his name.

However, British newspapers say the man in question is Yasser al-Siri, an Egyptian exile who faces a death sentence in his homeland for a murder conviction.

According to several British newspapers, al-Siri is being interrogated about the September 8 assassination of Ahmad Shah Massoud, a commander of the opposition Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.

The accounts say he provided references to two men who traveled from London to Pakistan, and then on to Afghanistan to carry out the Massoud assassination.

The two men convinced Mr. Massoud that they were journalists for an Arab television company. It is believed they hid a bomb in the television camera they used. The explosion fatally wounded Commander Massoud and both of the assassins died.

American investigators suspect the Massoud assassination is linked to Osama bin Laden, who wanted to destabilize anti-Taleban forces in Afghanistan ahead of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Al-Siri has denied any links to terrorism and he says his London-based Islamic Observation Center is a news and information source. Al-Siri was sentenced to death in Egypt for the 1993 assassination attempt against former prime minister Atef Sedki. A 12-year-old girl was killed in the attack.

He also has reported links to al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, a militant Islamic group that claimed responsibility for a 1997 attack at Luxor, Egypt, in which 58 tourists and four Egyptians were killed.

In a separate Egyptian trial two years ago, al-Siri was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment for plotting to carry out attacks against officials and police.

Al-Siri fled to London in 1994. He allegedly entered Britain on a false passport, but he was granted asylum and he has so far fended off Egypt's attempts to have him extradited.

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