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Thursday, 23 December, 1999, 04:16 GMT
Bomb suspect denies charges

Ahmed Ressam Ahmed Ressam arrives in court

An Algerian-born man arrested for allegedly bringing bomb parts into the United States from Canada has denied five charges ranging from using false identification to smuggling explosives.

Ahmed Ressam, 32, was detained last week after he tried to enter Washington state on a ferry from the Canadian province of British Columbia.

Charges include:
Making false statements to US customs officers
Smuggling nitroglycerin across the border
Transporting explosives
Possessing unregistered firearms
Law enforcement officials say they are searching for up to three other people who may have ties to Mr Ressam.

His arrest provoked fears of a millennium bombing campaign.

Customs officials searching his vehicle recovered two 22-ounce jars of highly volatile nitroglycerin, 118 pounds of powdered urea, used to make explosives and fertiliser, and a circuit board connected to a battery and a digital watch.

When combined the materials could be used to create a large explosion.

'False identity'

Mr Ressam, travelling under a false identity, was seized after border police became suspicious of his elaborate travel itinerary.

He fled after inspectors searched his car, but was caught less than a mile away.

Montreal Police search Mr Ressam's apartment
Police revealed that Mr Ressam's travel plans, after leaving his apartment in Montreal, included an overnight stop in Seattle followed by a flight to New York, connecting with a British Airways flight to London.

Appearing before a Seattle district court on Friday, Mr Ressam also faced charges of giving false information to border officials and having false identification.

Federal authorities did not say during the court hearing what he planned to do with the materials or why he was crossing the border. His lawyers refused to comment.

Millennium bombing

US newspapers have speculated that the arrest may be linked to international terrorist activity and a millennium bombing campaign.

The Washington Post quoted unnamed officials as saying they believed Mr Ressam could be linked to Saudi militant Osama bin Laden.

The paper quoted a former intelligence official as saying the equipment carried by Mr Ressam was similar to that used previously by associates of Osama bin Laden.

Last weekend, the US Government warned its citizens travelling abroad over the New Year period that there was an increased risk of terrorist activity.

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See also:
12 Dec 99 |  Americas
US warns of terror threat
12 Nov 99 |  Americas
FBI reorganises to combat terror
06 Aug 99 |  South Asia
Osama bin Laden: America's most wanted

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