(AFP) – Sep 4, 2007
COPENHAGEN (AFP) — Danish police said Tuesday they had averted a terrorist attack with the arrest overnight of eight men allegedly linked to Al-Qaeda and in possession of explosives.
The director general of the Danish intelligence service PET, Jakob Scharf, said the arrests near Copenhagen had "prevented a terrorist attack."
"We would describe the main suspects as militant Islamists with international contacts, including leading members of Al-Qaeda," Scharf told a press conference.
Scharf would not disclose any information about the possible target of the planned attack, but said there was "no direct link" to Denmark's military involvement in Iraq or Afghanistan.
There was no connection either to the Prophet Mohammed cartoons that were printed in a Danish newspaper in September 2005 and sparked angry Muslim protests around the world, he said.
PET said the eight were "suspected of preparing a terrorist act with the use of explosives."
Police raided 11 homes in the early hours of Tuesday, after an investigation which had been underway for several months and during which PET cooperated with foreign intelligence agencies.
"We made our move now because we had gathered enough evidence to make an arrest, and because several of the suspects had created an unstable explosive in a densely populated housing area," Scharf said.
"During the raids overnight and this morning we found a series of objects and materials that are important in this case," he added.
The eight suspects, aged 19 to 28, were of foreign backgrounds from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Turkey, and six of them held Danish citizenship, Scharf said.
The men had all lived in Denmark for an extended period of time, Scharf said, adding that their process of Islamic radicalisation had taken place in part in Denmark.
Two of the men, described as the main suspects and leaders of the group, were to appear before a judge on Tuesday and could be placed in temporary detention.
"This is a serious case. A case which we have been investigating very intensively... A case which has required much of PET's resources, a case which has had high priority for us," he added.
This is the third time in two years Danish police have conducted operations resulting in arrests on suspicion of terrorism.
In September 2006, PET arrested nine people after finding chemicals in a raid for explosives production.
Four young Muslims were indicted in the affair, accused of planning bomb attacks in Denmark or abroad. Their trial is to begin on Wednesday.
In October 2005, PET arrested a group of people accused of having helped two accomplices, a Swede of Serbian-Montenegrin origin and a Turkish-born Dane, travel to Sarajevo to acquire explosives and weapons aimed at carrying out a terror attack in Europe.
Of the four men who went on trial, one received a seven-year sentence and the three others were acquitted. However, in July Denmark's crown prosecutor ordered one of the acquitted men to stand trial again.
Scharf recalled that the West faced a general terrorist threat.
Al Qaeda, "after having been put on the defensive, is in the process of regaining ground again and will be able to carry out a terrorist attack against a Western country," he said.
Danish Justice Minister Lene Espersen described as "very worrying" the fact that there were individuals or groups in Denmark who had "the will ... and the capacity" to carry out terrorist attacks.
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