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3 Iraqis Charged in Alleged Plot to Kill Allawi

German prosecutors accuse the men, held since December, of a 2004 assassination bid.

November 17, 2005|Jeffrey Fleishman | Times Staff Writer

BERLIN — Three Iraqis suspected of having ties to a militant group have been charged in Germany with plotting to assassinate former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi when he visited Berlin in 2004, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.

The men are believed to be members of Ansar al Islam, an Iraqi group with fundraising and logistics networks in Europe. Authorities have been detaining the men since their arrest in December on suspicion of conspiring on an attempt to kill Allawi during a meeting in a Deutsche Bank office.

The event was canceled when police near Stuttgart, who had been monitoring the suspects for months, intercepted phone calls that indicated a rush to stage an attack, prosecutors said. The men, whose last names were not released, were identified as Ata R., 31; Mazen A.H., 23; and Rafik M.Y., 31.

Police say Rafik was in Augsburg, Germany, on Nov. 28, 2004, when he called Mazen for permission to assassinate Allawi. The request was approved, police say, Dec. 2, when Rafik was contacted by Mazen and Ata.

The men are charged with conspiracy, violating financial laws and membership in a foreign terrorist organization. Ata and Mazen are accused of operating out of Stuttgart and other cities to raise money for Ansar. The two are alleged to have arranged 25 money transfers to Iraq and Iran from November 2003 to December 2004. All three men are also suspected of recruiting suicide bombers and fighters for Iraq.

Ata was a "leading member of the international network of Ansar al Islam in Germany," according to a statement from top prosecutor Kay Nehm. It said Ata had contacts with top Ansar leaders and received sensitive information, including plans for attacks, available only to ranking members. Police did not say how the suspects entered Germany or how long they had been here.

Their arrest nearly a year ago offered authorities a peek into Ansar's European networks. Since then, police have detained a number of suspected Ansar members. Prosecutors believe that as many as 100 operatives with Middle East backgrounds have been living in Germany and arranging logistical support for the Iraqi-based group, including providing wounded fighters with medical care in Europe.

The group was founded in 2001 by radical Islamist Kurds in the mountains of northern Iraq. It was joined later by Al Qaeda-backed militants fleeing U.S. forces in Afghanistan. According to Iraqi and U.S. intelligence, Ansar has ties to Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born militant who leads Al Qaeda in Iraq.

The charges against Ata, Mazen and Rafik came days after a German judge criticized the country's immigration authorities for lax oversight.

Judge Ottmar Breidling's comments followed the trial of four men convicted of planning attacks on Jewish targets. Three of the accused had been arrested for drug trafficking and should have been deported, the judge said. But they used fake identity papers to collect welfare benefits and get housing.

"This trial would not have been required if laws concerning foreigners had been implemented properly," Breidling said.

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