7 charged in Danish terror plot

• Suspects rounded up in police raid in Odense
• Material `to build explosives’ found, court told

ODENSE, Denmark—Police raided homes in a largely immigrant suburb before dawn yesterday, detaining nine men on suspicion of preparing explosives for a terror attack in Denmark.

Seven men were later arraigned on preliminary charges of plotting a terror attack, but the other two were released.

An imam, Abu Bashar, said the suspects were Muslims. Denmark drew Muslim rage earlier this year over media caricatures of Islam’s founder.

Officials in Odense, the country’s third-biggest city, did not reveal the planned target and said it was hard to evaluate how far the alleged plot had progressed.

The suspects had acquired material “to build explosives in connection with the preparation of a terror act,” said Lars Findsen, head of the Danish Security Intelligence Service.

The raids, days ahead of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, came after two recent sweeps by British police, one that authorities say thwarted a plot to bomb jetliners over the Atlantic.

Germany also arrested four people in botched train bombings.

News of the arrests sent jitters through Denmark, which heightened its terror preparedness early this year following Muslim rage around the world over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that were first published in a Danish newspaper.

Justice Minister Lene Espersen said she did not know whether the plot was related to the cartoon crisis in February, when Danish and other Western embassies were attacked by mobs in Muslim countries.

“The clues police found indicate that they were very likely planning an attack somewhere in Denmark,” she said.

Identities of the arrested men were not released, but authorities said all were Danish citizens aged between 18 and 33 and all but one had immigrant backgrounds.

Prosecutor Erik Terp Jensen urged that the suspects be kept in custody on preliminary charges of plotting terror acts as the investigation continues.

A man who identified himself only as Ali K. said police detained his whole family, but later released everyone except his 21-year-old brother.

“They looked for weapons but they have found nothing. They also searched our basement,” he said.

Authorities said the suspects had been under surveillance for some time. But Findsen said the sweep was not related to neighbouring Germany’s arrest of four Lebanese suspected of involvement in a failed attempt to bomb trains.

German media has said one of those suspects, Youssef Mohamad el Hajdib, was heading to Denmark, and German and Danish media said German police found a telephone number in his pocket for Abu Bashar, the imam in Odense who identified the suspects arrested yesterday as Muslims.

Abu Bashar denied knowing el Hajdib, but said it is a just matter of time before terrorists strike in Denmark.

“Osama bin Laden said in a message three years ago that he will punish the countries that have (troops) in Iraq,” he said. “Denmark is on the list.”

About 500 Danish soldiers are serving in southern Iraq and 360 more are in Afghanistan.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday September 6, 2006.
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