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Thursday, 30 December, 1999, 23:04 GMT
FBI 'terrorism' swoop

times square New Year preparations continue in New York's Times Square

The FBI has made dozens of arrests across the United States in a search for individuals linked to a terrorist suspect.

Officials said the operation, in which several people were detained on immigration charges, was prompted by the arrest of Algerian Ahmed Ressam.

Mr Ressam is suspected of smuggling explosives across the Canadian border as part of a millennium bombing campaign.

A spokesman for the FBI said the latest operation was an attempt to find people "who are identified in some way as possibly having information about Ressam".

Many of the supects were later released after questioning, said to be related to "Y2K and terrorism issues".

US prosecutors say Mr Ressam, and a Canadian woman arrested shortly after him, are members of the same cell of an Algerian terrorist organisation.

Earlier, federal prosecutors asked a magistrate to continue to refuse bail to Canadian Lucia Garofalo until her trial.

Ahmed Ressam Ahmed Ressam: Denies all charges
"This is a defendant who is working to assist terrorist organisations," Assistant US Attorney Tristram Coffin said in court.

In court documents, prosecutors said Ms Garofalo and Mr Ressam were members of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), which is blamed for some of the bloodiest attacks in Algeria's civil war.

It has also been blamed for bombings in France in 1995 and 1996.

Mr Ressam faces charges of trying to smuggle explosives and timing devices into the US from Canada on 14 December.

Vermont border

Ms Garofalo, 35, was arrested five days later at a Vermont border crossing with another Algerian, Boubaide Chachmi, 20.

Mr Chamchi, an Algerian national, has been ordered to be held without bail until his trail.

The arrests have stirred fears of terrorist attacks over the millennium holiday.

Lucia Garofalo: Arrested with Algerian man
Deputy US Attorney David Kirby made no direct links between Ms Garofalo and Mr Ressam other than their alleged membership of the same terrorist cell.

The prosecutor said the information he used in his court filing came from a foreign government, which he did not identify.

The document says that Ms Garofalo's husband is Yamin Rachek, an Algerian national who was expelled from Canada after presenting a false passport.

Mr Rachek, who now lives in Italy, was arrested in London in 1996 for allegedly using an altered Greek passport.

He also faces an outstanding arrest warrant in Germany for theft, the authorities said.

Airline ticket

Ms Garofalo has sought unsuccessfully to persuade Canada to allow Mr Rachek back into the country. In 1997, she allegedly arranged with a man named Said Atmani to buy her an airline ticket to travel to Germany and to hire a lawyer for her husband, Kirby said.

Drawing of Bouabide Chamchi
"The foreign government reports that Atmani is a documents forger for the GIA, a violent Algerian terrorist organisation," Mr Kirby wrote.

"The foreign government also reports that at one time Atmani and Ahmed Ressam, the man recently arrested in the Seattle area, were roommates."

Mr Kirby said the government reported that in 1997 it monitored a conversation between GIA members who spoke of a man living at the time in Germany whose Italian wife lived in Canada.

"The foreign government reports that these two members of the GIA are in the same cell of that organisation as Ahmed Ressam, the man recently arrested in the Seattle area," Kirby said in his court filing.

Ms Garofalo faces minor immigration charges.

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See also:
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