SLUG: 2-288770 Germany / Terrorism
TITLE=GERMANT / TERRORISM / L-O
INTRO: Five alleged terrorists go on trial in Frankfurt Germany, today, charged with forming a terrorist cell and plotting to bomb the Christmas Market around Strasbourg Cathedral in neighboring France. Jonathan Braude reports it is the first trial of Islamic radicals alleged to have trained in Al Qaeda camps.
TEXT -- Security in the Frankfurt district court is very tight. The building has undergone a 530-thousand-dollar upgrade and has been partly rebuilt for improved security. Thirty security guards have been brought in for the duration of the trial.
Inside, five men - all Algerians - face charges not directly related to the
September 11th bombings in the United States. But their trial shows exactly how
vulnerable Europe has become to the menace of radicals trained by Al Qaeda.
Four of the five were arrested in two Frankfurt apartments, December 26th,
2000. Police in France and Germany say they had been watching them for weeks
but could wait no longer, fearing they were about to launch an attack.
In a raid on the home of Aeurobui Beandali, they say they found a bomb-making
factory, with the ingredients for making nail bombs, as well as pistols,
submachine guns and rifles. They also say they found a quantities of black Afghan
hashish, which they see as evidence of how the group's operations
may have been financed.
In the second apartment, where three of his alleged accomplices were holed
up, authorities say they found a video cassette showing the bustling French market. On the video is the voice of the cameraman saying "You will go to hell, if that is God's will."
The fifth man, arrested later, is also charged with belonging to a
terrorist organisation. In Britain and Frnace, five other men suspected of
involvement with the group are also in detention.
Mr. Beandali's lawyer says his client is not connected with Al Qaeda. One
German news report Tuesday says he may make a statement naming a Strasbourg
synagogue, rather than the market, as the real target of the bombing.
The arrests are said to result from one of the most successful cross-border
operations against suspected terrorists in Europe. Phone intercepts and
other information gathered in Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Spain make
prosecutors confident they have the evidence they need.
Meanwhile the German federal prosecutor's office said Tuesday police
have arrested a man in connection with last week's alleged bombing at
a synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia, in which at least 16 people, including
ten German tourists, died. The Tunisian authorities have said the explosion
was an accident, set off when a truck carrying gas bottles blew up. But the
German authorities are reported to have said the arrest follows a telephone call from
Djerba to Germany, intercepted shortly before the blast. (signed)
NEB / JB / WD
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