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France Anti-Terrorism Police Arrest Suspects - 2002-12-27

French police have arrested four more Muslim militants who, according to the French Interior Ministry, were planning a terrorist attack on the Russian embassy in Paris.

The four men were arrested in a raid by antiterrorism police on apartments in the Paris suburbs. As with an earlier raid in which four other suspected terrorists were arrested, police said they found evidence that a bomb was being prepared.

The evidence reportedly included vials of chemicals, a shopping list of explosive materials, and a remote control device that could have been used as a detonator. Equipment for making false identity papers was also discovered. Some of the items were hidden in a chimney.

According to the Interior Ministry, the four men, all of Algerian origin, were planning an attack on Russian interests in Paris, particularly the Russian embassy. The ministry says the information came from one of the suspects. The men are described as part of what French police call the "Chechen Connection," a group of about 20 French passport holders who spent time with Chechen rebel groups. Many also were in Afghanistan.

The four men arrested in the most recent raid returned to France only recently. Police say after the arrests of four other suspected terrorists on December 16. The police say all eight were part of the same cell. The Interior Ministry said the cell was operational but was prevented from carrying out an attack by the recent arrests.

One of the suspects is identified as Menad Benshallali, who has been wanted by police for several months. His brother Mourad is being held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, after being captured in Afghanistan.