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Arrest of Fugitive Terrorist Suspect at Bus Stop Is Disclosed

A federal indictment accuses 'Abdella' and three others already in custody of plotting attacks in the U.S., Turkey and Jordan.

November 15, 2002|From Times Wire Services

DETROIT — A fugitive terrorist suspect was arrested at a bus stop this month in North Carolina and is being transferred to Michigan to face federal terrorism charges, authorities said Thursday.

The suspect, identified in federal court papers only as "Abdella," allegedly provided direction for three others who sought to buy weapons, obtain false identity documents and identify security breaches at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, according to court documents.

The men are allegedly members of Salafiyya, or "True Path," a radical Islamic group affiliated with Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network, and were plotting "violent attacks against persons and buildings within the territory of Jordan, Turkey and the United States," according to an indictment of them issued in August.

The case was the first in which authorities said they had uncovered an active sleeper cell in the United States.

All four men were accused of supporting terrorism and document fraud, but Abdella has been a fugitive until now. Two others -- Karim Koubriti and Ahmed Hannan -- have been in federal custody since the FBI raided their Dearborn, Mich., apartment in September of 2001.

The fourth member of the group, Farouk Haimoud, was arrested at the same time. He was released a short time later but rearrested in April.

Koubriti, Hannan and Hammoud pleaded not guilty to the charges in September.

Abdella was arrested Nov. 5 in Greensboro, N.C., as he waited to board a bus, according to law enforcement sources. Authorities declined to say how he was identified or where he was headed.

Lynne Klauer, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Greensboro, said Abdella appeared before a magistrate and waived his right to a detention hearing.

Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Detroit, said Abdella could be arraigned as early as today.

Abdella is believed to be from Morocco. He lived primarily in the Chicago area in recent years and is suspected of being a regular visitor to the Dearborn apartment during that time, law enforcement officials said.

Among the items seized there were a videotape that contained footage of Disneyland and other U.S. landmarks, as well as the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, according to the indictment.

Authorities also found a day planner containing sketches of a U.S. airbase in Turkey and notes about a planned December 2000 trip to the base by then-Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, who canceled the visit over concerns about a terrorist threat.

In addition, the indictment says, the group attempted to "directly access airlines" for possible terrorist activity.

Koubriti and Hannan worked in the kitchen of an airline catering firm in the summer of 2001. Abdella is described in the indictment as an expert in airport security operations.

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