Terror web unravelling in Europe
By CNN's Diana Muriel
BRUSSELS, Belgium (CNN) -- There is mounting evidence in Europe of an extremist Islamic terrorist network with close links to Osama bin Laden.
A series of police raids and more than 20 arrests around Europe in recent days has shed more light on the links between groups of terrorists working from the Netherlands to Spain.
Key figures thought to have controlled the cells have been arrested in Belgium, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.
Notebooks seized by Spanish police in raids in several cities reveal direct links to London and other European capitals.
The six men Arrested in Spain were found with equipment to forge credit cards and other documents. They are believed to be, what investigators call, "sleeper activists."
"In these radical Islamic groups are those who are prepared for action, and whilst they are prepared there they will also be falsifying documents," said Juan Cotino, Madrid police chief.
"They could be getting materials and sending them to those who are in action, and any of them would be ready to act in anything the movement may ask of them."
The movement, law enforcement sources say is the Egyptian-based "Salafist group for call and combat" as well as its parallel organization "Takfir Wal Hijra," which translates to excommunication and exile. Both groups had links throughout Europe.
The key to breaking the network was the July arrest in Dubai of a man called Djamel Begal.
Journalist and writer Claude Moniquet, who has tracked Islamic fundamentalist groups for 20 years, said he believes Begal was an agent for bin Laden.
"He was going from Pakistan to Europe, it's quite sure, to send the orders of bin Laden and the associates of bin Laden," Moniquet said, "It was the beginning of the attacks. Begal is the key and link between people in France, Belgium, Holland and maybe in Italy and Spain.
During interrogation in Dubai, sources said, Begal told authorities attacks on American interests were being planned. The targets mentioned were the American embassy in Paris and the U.S. consulate in Marseilles.
According to the same sources, Begal also gave investigators information about a contact in the Netherlands. It's a lead which is believed to have resulted in four arrests in Rotterdam on September 13.
At about the same time, Belgian police arrested Nizar Trabelsi at an apartment building in Brussels.
"In his apartment police found incriminating documents, chemical formulas for bomb-making, which led directly to a raid ... at [an] egyptian snack bar right across from the stock exchange in central Brussels where police recovered 220 pounds of sulfur and 13 gallons of acetone," Moniquet said, "the basic ingredients for what police sources say was a bomb big enough to blow up a building."
"They also found detailed plans of the American embassy in Paris together with other evidence linking Trabelsi with a French terror cell," Moniquet added.
French police moved in last Friday, making seven arrests and recovering helicopter pilot manuals and aeronautical charts showing air approaches to Paris.
But a key target of the raid escaped, 23-year-old Kamel Daoudi.
"He was the co-ordinator of the French cell," Moniquet said. "It seems that Daoudi was the man who was preparing the attack with his friends in paris for Trabelsi and for Djamel Begal of course."
Earlier this week, Daoudi was arrested in the United Kingdom. Police covered his hands with plastic bags so his skin could be tested for traces of explosives. Daoudi is being held for questioning under Britain's anti-terrorism act.
Despite the more than 20 arrests in seven European countries, authorities have said many more members of the "Salafist group for call and combat" and its partner "Takfir Wal Hijra" may still be active.
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