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Denmark Holds 7 Suspects After Anti-Terrorism Raid

September 06, 2006|Jeffrey Fleishman | Times Staff Writer

BERLIN — Nine men suspected of gathering explosives for a terrorist plot were arrested in Denmark early Tuesday, Danish authorities said.

Police said the men, one ethnic Dane and eight others with immigrant backgrounds, were arrested in a 2 a.m. raid in Odense. The suspects possessed "materials that can be used for the construction of explosives in connection with preparation for an act of terror," said a statement by the Danish Security Intelligence Service.

Two of the suspects were later released without charge, and the other seven were arraigned on preliminary charges of plotting a terrorist attack. The accused had been under surveillance, but officials did not say what the suspects' target was believed to be or what stage the alleged plan had reached.

Lars Findsen, head of the intelligence service, said the arrests were made because "with the general terror situation," authorities did not want to "run any unnecessary risk."

Justice Minister Lene Espersen told Danish television: "The clues police found indicate that they were very likely planning an attack somewhere in Denmark. It was the most serious matter I have had in my time as justice minister."

The arrests came days before the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and nearly a year after the Jyllands-Posten newspaper printed cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. The drawings, including one in which the prophet is wearing a headdress shaped like a bomb, led to weeks of protests in Europe and the Middle East.

Abu Bashar, an imam in Odense, told the Associated Press that he knew the suspects and predicted that the charges would be dropped. But he said he expected terrorists eventually to strike Denmark, which has about 500 soldiers supporting the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

"Osama bin Laden said in a message three years ago that he will punish the countries that have [troops] in Iraq," Bashar said. "Denmark is on the list."

There are about 200,000 Muslims in Denmark, in an overall population of 5.4 million. Resentment over integration failures has deepened amid the rise of the anti-immigrant Danish People's Party and Denmark's support of President Bush's policies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The nation raised its terrorism threat after the July 7, 2005, bombings of London's transit system.

A Moroccan-born Danish publisher was arrested shortly afterward on charges of instigating terrorism by distributing "inflammatory jihadist" videos, according to police. Last month, Danish authorities charged four men with supplying explosives to suspects in Bosnia-Herzegovina who are believed to have been planning an attack in Europe.

Two anti-terrorism officials in Europe said the anniversaries of Sept. 11 and the publication of the cartoons have led to a heightened alert across the continent.

"We have seen the faces of terror in Madrid and London. We know that there are potential terror threats in the whole Western world," Denmark's Deputy Prime Minister Bendt Bendtsen told Danish television.


Times staff writer Sebastian Rotella in Paris contributed to this report.

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