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Britain charges 2 Algerians

| Friday, Jan. 18, 2002

LEICESTER, England - Two Algerian men allegedly involved in a plot to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Paris were charged with membership in Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network during a court appearance Thursday.

In raids north of London, police also arrested eight men yesterday under Britain's Terrorism Act as part of a pan-European anti-terrorism effort.

Elsewhere, police in the Philippines yesterday arrested three men with suspected al-Qaida links; sources in Pakistan said five suspects had been arrested after a high-speed chase, and a news report in Indonesia said a Pakistani citizen had been deported to Egypt in connection with suspected terrorist activities, including last month's alleged attempt by the so-called shoe bomber to attack a U.S. airliner.

In the English city of Leicester, Algerian suspects Brahim Benmerzouga, 30, and Baghdad Meziane, 37, appeared briefly in a magistrate's court yesterday on a variety of terrorist-related charges.

Meziane was charged with directing terrorism, inciting terrorism overseas, belonging to al-Qaida and conspiracy to support terrorism by raising funds.

Benmerzouga was charged with membership in al-Qaida, possession of racist videos and a solar-powered battery which could be used to power explosive devices and conspiring to raise money to fund terrorism.

Their next court appearance was set for Jan. 24.

The men have been in custody since their arrest Sept. 25, two weeks after the terrorist attacks on the United States. They were arrested in the city of Leicester on the same day police there arrested Kamel Daoudi, an Algerian wanted in France in connection with the foiled plot to attack the U.S. Embassy in Paris.

Daoudi was extradited Sept. 29 and remains in French custody along with several others suspected of involvement in the embassy plot. Other suspects in the alleged plot also are in custody in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Details of the plot, which allegedly was to have been carried out by a suicide bomber, were revealed by Djamel Beghal, a 35-year-old French-Algerian who told a judge that al-Qaida fighters were recruited through British mosques in London and Leicester.

Britain's Crown Prosecution Service confirmed that Benmerzouga and Meziane were suspected of involvement in the embassy bombing plot, but did not disclose any details.

Police in Leicester, 100 miles north of London, also arrested eight other men whose ages range from 23 to 40.

A British official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said those arrests were made ''in connection with an ongoing pan-European anti-terrorist investigation.'' Officers were searching the raided premises, along with several other addresses in Leicester and a house in London.

Three other people were arrested in Leicester yesterday under similar immigration laws that kept Benmerzouga and Meziane behind bars for four months before they were charged.

In Pakistan, five men believed to be al-Qaida members on the run were arrested after a high-speed car chase that began when a pedestrian was run down on a remote road, witnesses and Interior Ministry officials said yesterday. Police and a Pakistani intelligence official said the detained men included one Saudi, one Yemeni and at least one Pakistani.

The Indonesian daily Suara Pembaruan reported that a Pakistani citizen identified as Havis Muhammad Saad Iqbal was deported to Egypt at the request of the Egyptian government on Jan. 11.

Iqbal, 25, is suspected of involvement in an alleged attempt by Richard Reid last month to bomb an American Airlines jet en route from Paris to Miami as well as other terrorist activities in Egypt, Mahmud Hendropriyono, chief of the National Intelligence Agency, was quoted as saying.

In the Philippines, authorities dug up a cache of explosives in the southern city of General Santos on Thursday and arrested three men with suspected al-Qaida links.

The Philippine National Police spokesman, Cresencio Maralit, said officers acted on information from neighboring Singapore, where police have arrested 13 alleged members of the clandestine Jamaah Islamiyah, or Islamic Group. Eight of them allegedly received al-Qaida training in Afghanistan.

Philippine police confiscated cylinders of explosive materials, 17 dismantled M-16 rifles, detonation cords and other bomb-making materials.

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