Nuclear Engineer at Cern Lab Arrested For Ties to Al Qaeda

An al Qaeda attack might have been prevented in Europe. The Times of London reports:

Fears that al-Qaeda is planning an attack on the nuclear industry in Europe were renewed yesterday after French secret agents arrested a physicist working at an atomic research centre.

The 32-year-old man, who was detained with his brother, 25, is suspected of providing a list of terrorist targets to North African Islamic radicals. He worked for the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland, according to French police sources.

Agents were said to have intercepted messages in which the physicist, a Frenchman of Algerian origin, had suggested targets in France.

He is believed to have been in contact with members of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, an Algerian-based terror organisation that joined Osama bin Laden’s network in 2007.

“He had expressed a wish or a desire to commit terrorist actions but had not materially prepared them,” an intelligence source said.

After he was identified, during an investigation into a French network that had sent Islamic radicals to Afghanistan, the man was put under surveillance for about 18 months. Last month Judge Christophe Teissier, an investigating magistrate specialising in terrorism, opened a formal inquiry into his activities.

The brothers apparently came to the attention of the secret services when agents monitored the internet as part of the inquiry into the recruitment of extremists to fight in Afghanistan. Several exchanges were recorded between the brothers and suspected al-Qaeda contacts.

As has generally been the case, terrorism was successfully fought with conventional gathering of intelligence and police work. During the Bush years, those who stressed the importance of such efforts were often attacked by the Bush administration and the right wing.

The pair were arrested by the Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence (DCRI) at their home in Vienne, eastern France. Police seized two computers, three hard discs and two USB keys.

The men were taken for questioning at the directorate’s headquarters in Levallois-Perret, outside Paris. “Perhaps we have avoided the worst possible scenario,” Brice Hortefeux, the French Interior Minister, said. “We are in a situation of permanent vigilance and we follow the declarations of the leaders of certain organisations day by day. Our vigilance is never lowered. The risk is permanent.”

CERN, the leading European laboratory for the study of sub-atomic physics, said that the suspect had never been in contact with any elements that could be used for terrorist purposes.

There is  no report of water boarding or other forms of torture being required in this case.

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4 Comments

  1. 1
    Les Hare says:

    Guess we’d better start looking for WMDs in Algeria, huh? Fighting them over there, and all that…

  2. 2
    What says:

    Funny statement from a citizen from the western country which institutionalized the worst citizen spying laws, such as your famous infamous Patriot Act.

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    Many of us here also opposed such items in the Patriot Act.

  4. 4
    Eclectic Radical says:

    ‘Funny statement from a citizen from the western country which institutionalized the worst citizen spying laws, such as your famous infamous Patriot Act.’
     
    Actually, the worst citizen spying laws in a Western nation are probably in France, where ‘espionage’ and  ‘terrorist’ laws have been on the books since the 1970s that allow the Surete to pretty much ignore due process all together. Some of the Patriot Act was specifically modelled on the French terrorism laws. And conservatives say there is nothing to learn from Europe. 😐
     
    And as Ron says, quite a lot of us were against the Patriot Act. It’s why Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, and Mike Gravel made the Patriot Act central to their presidential primary campaigns and why Bob Barr (who wrote the thing, ironically) made it central to his campaign in the general election.
     

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