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Danish attack plot suspect in previous arrests

Danish attack plot suspect in previous arrests

Author: AFP
Publication: Google.com
Date: December 31, 2010
URL: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5ifXEXGfVHZ-wserqQrxPV_dOmY3A?docId=CNG.8d56f60ee58ac6fb007da9c473e7efb0.821

One of five men held over a foiled plot to massacre staff at a Danish newspaper had twice been arrested abroad suspected of terror links, the foreign ministry and media said Friday.

Munir Awad, a 29-year-old Swede born in Lebanon, had publicly thanked the Swedish secret service, Saepo, for obtaining his release from Somalia where he was detained three years ago.

"We know Saepo brought us home and we are very grateful," he told a newspaper at the time.

Swedish foreign ministry spokesman Anders Joerle confirmed the previous arrests and that Sweden had intervened on Awad's behalf.

"Awad was arrested in Somalia by Ethiopian troops. That was in 2007. He was arrested in Pakistan in 2009," foreign ministry spokesman Anders Joerle told AFP.

"The Swedish foreign ministry helped them. I wouldn't say to free him, but what we did was insist that he either should be tried or set free," he added.

Awad was one of five men arrested in Denmark and Sweden on Wednesday for hatching what Danish officials called a plan to "kill as many people as possible" in an assault on the Jyllands-Posten daily.

The paper published in September 2005 a dozen cartoons of the Muslim prophet that triggered violent and sometimes deadly protests around the world.

A Stockholm court identified one man arrested in the Swedish capital as Sahbi Zalouti, a 37-year-old Swede of Tunisian origin. He was on Thursday remanded in custody for two weeks.

Joerle told AFP Friday that Zalouti had been arrested in Pakistan last year for entering the country illegally but that it remained unclear if he was connected to Awad.

Danish intelligence agency PET has identified the only man based in Denmark as a 26-year-old Iraqi asylum seeker living in the Copenhagen suburb of Greve. The man, identified by media as Abdullah Muhammed Salman, was freed Thursday but is still suspected of being connected to the plot.

The three men arrested in another suburb of Copenhagen were all based in Sweden and had driven to the Danish capital overnight Tuesday. They have been remanded in custody for four weeks by a Danish court.

PET has not provided their names, but media has identified them as Awad, 44-year-old Tunisian Mounir Dhahri and 30-year-old Swede Omar Abdalla Aboelazm.

When Awad was arrested in Somalia in 2007, he was travelling with his then 17-year-old pregnant wife Safia Benaouda, who is the daughter of the head of Sweden's Muslim Council Helena Benaouda, Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet reported.

Awad told the paper in a previous interview the couple had been tortured and interrogated there before Swedish intelligence agency Saepo helped free them.

When he was arrested in Pakistan in August 2009, Awad was traveling with Benaouda and their then two-year-old son, as well as with Mehdi Ghezali, a Swede who had spent two years in Guantanamo Bay, Joerle said.

The Aftonbladet daily meanwhile reported Awad was also connected to two Swedes of Somali origin found guilty by a Swedish court earlier this month of "planning terrorist crimes" in Somalia and sentenced to four years in prison.

Awad, the paper reported, had shared an apartment in Stockholm with the two men, Mohamoud Jama, 22, and Bille Ilias Mohamed, 26, who are members of the Islamist movement Al-Shebab.

The Somali Islamist militia has declared allegiance to Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network and controls most of southern and central Somalia.

Jyllands-Posten and Swedish tabloid Expressen reported Friday that David Headley, who helped plan the 2008 Mumbai attacks and had reportedly been preparing several attacks in the Danish capital, had been in contact with a businessman in Stockholm over the plot.

The businessman may have been the mastermind behind the foiled operation, the reports said.


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