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Bin Laden suspect held in Bosnia

Lord Robertson said a number of terrorist networks have been disrupted
Lord Robertson said a number of terrorist networks have been disrupted  

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- A man suspected of having links to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network has been detained in Bosnia, NATO has said.

NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson said on Friday that the individual was among a number of suspects held by allied forces and local police in the Balkan country.

Bosnian police, in cooperation with NATO-led forces, have detained dozens of suspects since the September 11 attacks in the United States.

Most have been released but six people of Algeria origin remain under investigation by the Supreme Court, the only Bosnian tribunal dealing with suspected terrorism cases.

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"There have been a number of arrests and detentions and deportations in Bosnia- Herzegovina carried out by the NATO-led Stabilisation Force, SFOR," Robertson told reporters.

"At least one of the detained people is known to have direct links with al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

"The action taken by SFOR has disrupted a number of terrorist networks, not all of them al Qaeda networks. They show the effectiveness of our operation in seeking out and cracking down on terrorism."

One of the suspects, Bensayah Belkacem, was arrested on October 8 on the basis of foreign intelligence reports that he allegedly made telephone calls to an aide of bin Laden, who is the West's main suspect behind the September 11 attacks on the U.S..

Police said they found a number of blank passports from various countries at his house, Reuters reported.

British and U.S. officials in Bosnia last week closed their embassies in Bosnia, citing credible security threats.

An unnamed official close to the government of the Croat-Muslim federation told the Associated Press that one of the five other Algerian suspects arrested last week was a member of the Armed Islamic Group, an Algerian terrorist organisation.

The source said another was a member of the Egyptian terrorist organisation al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, while one of the five had a relative working in the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo.

Robertson said the arrests were "achieved through excellent cooperation with other agencies."

"We also welcome and have been impressed by the actions of the government authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina," he said.

"The threat however has not gone. These networks have been disrupted, not eliminated. Investigations are continuing. Our work is therefore not finished."



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