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Suspects Arrested in France Have Links to al-Qaida - 2002-11-08

France's interior minister says suspects arrested this week in two French cities appear to be linked to the al-Qaida terror network. The news coincides with growing fears al-Qaida may be planning a major strike.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy says arrests this week in the southern cities of Lyon and Marseille appear to be linked to the al-Qaida terrorist network of Osama bin Laden.

Asked on Europe-1 radio whether those arrested in the two cities may be linked to al-Qaida, Mr. Sarkozy replied, "unfortunately."

On Tuesday, police detained eight people in Lyon, in connection with a suicide attack on a synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba in April. Several of those detained were relatives of Tunisian Nizar Nawar, the apparent driver of an oil truck that exploded outside the synagogue.

Al-Qaida has claimed responsibility for the explosion, which killed 19 people, and said Mr. Nawar was a member.

Two of those detained in the Lyon arrests have since been released.

Mr. Sarkozy alluded to at least one other recent arrest in Marseille, which also appears to be linked to the terror network.

France and other European countries have rounded up dozens of terrorist suspects since last year's attacks in New York and Washington. Zacarias Massaoui, charged in the United States in connection with the September 11 strikes, grew up in France.

Richard Reid also spent time in Paris, before allegedly trying to blow up a U.S.-bound plane last year.

The head of the international police organization, Interpol, also based in Lyon, said he believes al-Qaida may be planning a major strike in the upcoming months. In a newspaper interview published Friday, Interpol head Ronald Noble is also quoted as saying he believes Osama bin Laden is still alive, since no proof exists the Saudi millionaire is dead.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department has again warned Americans overseas to be vigilant about what it calls the continuing threat of terrorist actions that may target civilians.

In a notice issued Thursday, called a worldwide caution, the State Department says it continues to receive credible indications that terrorist groups are planning attacks. The notice said the danger may be increased by the scheduled execution in the United States next week of Mir Ahmad Kasi, who was convicted of murdering two CIA employees near Washington in 1993.