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Saturday, 31 August, 2002, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK
Police check hijack suspect's terror links
Karem Chatty
Police detained the suspect after finding a gun
Anti-terrorism experts are continuing to question a suspected would-be hijacker in Sweden to try to establish whether he has any connection to extreme Muslim groups such as al-Qaeda.

The 29-year-old convert to Islam was arrested trying to board a flight to Britain after he a gun was found in his hand luggage.

Ryanair plane at Vasteras airport
Police ordered all passengers to leave the plane to search baggage
The man - whom has been named in some newspapers as Kerim Chatty - denied knowledge of the gun and said he was on his way to an Islamic conference in Birmingham in central England.

The conference is for followers of the Salafi school of Islamic thought, believed to have connections to Osama Bin Laden, the 11 September hijackers and alleged plane shoe-bomber Richard Reid.

British police - said to include anti-terrorism experts from Scotland Yard - are working closely with their Swedish counterparts on the case.

'Too early to know'

Swedish officials said it was too early to know if the suspected hijacker had any terror links.

Police spokesman Ulf Palm said: "We don't want to reveal much information, at least for now. More people may be implicated."

The suspect has previous convictions for theft and assault, Mr Palm added.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the arrest showed "the threat of international terrorism remains".

The man, who was arrested at Vasteras airport, 100km (60 miles) north-west of Stockholm, was born in Sweden to Tunisian parents.

Although some unnamed officials have said they believe the man was not part of a criminal group, fears of a terrorist connection have been raised with the approach of the first anniversary of the 11 September attacks and the apparent link to the Salafi conference.

Salafi school

The suspect was part of a group with 18 other adults and two children apparently bound for the Birmingham meeting.

Ryanair passenger
Police released the people who had been travelling with the suspect
The leaders of the Salafi school have always denounced acts of violence or terrorism and organisers of the conference condemned the latest incident, adding they did not believe the suspect was going to attend.

Prosecutors in Sweden have until early next week to decide whether to bring formal charges against the man.

Mr Palm said on Friday: "We believe he was going to hijack the plane."

The offence carries a sentence of between six months and life imprisonment in Sweden.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"Ryanair officials said the incident had been handled in text book fashion"
Airport security adviser Gunnar Harmen
"It's not difficult to find a gun when they're screening your luggage"
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