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Europe-wide links to attacks probed

German police have searched a number of flats in Hamburg
German police have searched a number of flats in Hamburg  

LONDON, England -- Police across Europe are liaising with the FBI and investigating possible links to the terror attacks in the United States.

Officers are following leads in France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, the Netherland and the UK following the Tuesday's attacks in New York and Washington.

As six more suspects were held on Friday in Belgium and the Netherlands, German police released an airport worker after holding him for 24 hours.

The man, reported to be Egyptian, was released without charge, a spokeswoman for the Federal Prosecution Office said.

He had been arrested because he lives in a Hamburg apartment used by two of the suicide hijackers.

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German prosecutors started investigating after receiving leads from U.S. authorities. No arrests have been made yet beyond the brief detention of the airport worker.

It is believed that FBI agents are travelling to Hamburg.

Meanwhile, German and FBI agents questioned an Iranian man in prison in Hanover who had warned last week that the world order would come under threat from a terror attack.

But prosecutors said the man, awaiting deportation from Germany, had not known in advance of the U.S. attacks and that he knew no one involved in the planning.

The man had been allowed to telephone the White House last week and made a total of 14 calls to U.S. authorities.

He had said the attack would come this week, justice sources said.

"The attackers and the background to the attacks are not and were not known to him," the Federal Prosecutor's Office said in a statement.

"His warnings were limited to diffuse statements about a threat to world peace and the world order. He could give no details. The Federal Prosecutors Office, Federal Criminal Police and the FBI share this view."

The joint operation in Belgium and the Netherlands resulted in the arrest of six suspected Islamic extremists, authorities said on Friday.

According to The Associated Press, two of the men were arrested on Thursday in Brussels.

Belgian authorities said they were investigating possible links between Osama bin Laden and one of the men.

"It is a serious lead and we are investigating it seriously but it is too early to come to conclusions," Justice Minister Marc Verwilghen told the Associated Press.

A spokeswoman for the Brussels Public Prosecutor's Office told Reuters two Uzi machine pistols were found during a house search.

The other four were arrested in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam on Thursday night.

However, Dutch prosecutor's spokesman Wim de Bruijn said there was no connection with Tuesday's attacks. Dutch television reported that they were possibly members of an international network of radical Muslims.

Meanwhile, Italian police in Rome have re-opened the case of a theft of uniforms and badges belonging to two American Airlines pilots in April.

Colonel Gianfranco Cavallo of the Italian Carabinieri paramilitary police said the thieves broke into four rooms at the Hotel Nazionale in central Rome on April 6 2001. Two of the rooms were occupied by the pilots.

Reuters reported that one pilot said the thieves made off with the room's safety box, which held his passport, an access badge to American Airlines offices in airports worldwide, his driving licence, wallet and keys.

The other pilot lost his passport, the jacket and tie of his uniform and a camera.

Cavallo said the pilots told police they had reported the incident to their company.

In France, special anti-terrorism prosecutors investigated links with militant Islamic networks in their country.

A French radio station reported on Thursday that the arrest of an Islamic militant in Boston last month by the FBI had been linked to Osama bin Laden by French intelligence reports, but that the U.S. apparently did not act on them.

Europe 1 radio reported that U.S. police had arrested a man with dual French and Algerian nationality who had several passports, technical information on Boeing aircraft and flight manuals. The man had been taking flying lessons, it added. According to Reuters, a French judicial source said the U.S. had now requested information on the militant.

In England, a man in his 40s was being quizzed under the Prevention of Terrorism Act after he was arrested by police at Heathrow Airport on Thursday afternoon.

Police would not say if the arrest was linked to the U.S. attacks. He was later released without charge.

Germany's top prosecutor revealed on Thursday that three men of Arab descent who died in the crashes are believed to have lived in the northern German city of Hamburg.

Two of the men have been identified as Mohamed Atta, 33, and Marwan Alshehhi, 23, both from the United Arab Emirates.

Both had earlier been named as former students of a Florida flight school and are suspected of having flown two of the hijacked jets. Up until last year, both men had been studying at Hamburg Technical University.

They had been registered for several years as residents of Hamburg, prompting police to search an apartment where they had lived. However, it had been unoccupied since February, and recently renovated, making the search for evidence difficult.

University president Christian Nedess told AP Alshehhi had studied one year at the university, and Atta had studied for eight years, completing one degree and starting a second.

He declined to say what the men had studied, but said it would not have given them technical knowledge that would have aided in the terror attack.

According to Hamburg authorities, Alshehhi left Germany for the U.S. on May 2 2001, although it was unclear when Atta had left. Both had travelled to the U.S. previously.

Sources have told CNN that a car impounded at Boston's Logan airport was rented by Atta. The vehicle contained materials, including flight manuals, written in Arabic. An apartment in Coral Springs, Florida, linked to Atta was also searched.

Quoting Nedess, AP said Atta was aboard the plane that crashed into World Trade Center Tower One, while Alshehhi was on the jet that struck the other tower 20 minutes later.

Other students at the university in Hamburg are also understood to be under investigation.

The prosecutor's office, which has put more than 60 people on the investigation, said at present no evidence had been found linking the Hamburg suspects to Osama bin Laden, the Saudi millionaire accused by the United States of sponsoring terrorists.

Chief federal prosecutor Kay Nehm told reporters that investigators believed the men, and a third suspect who also died, belonged to a terror group formed "with the aim of carrying out serious crimes together with other Islamic fundamentalist groups abroad, to attack the U.S. in a spectacular way through the destruction of symbolic buildings."

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