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Friday, 21 September, 2001, 13:52 GMT 14:52 UK
Islamic 'plotters' held in France
French security personnel
French police - on heightened alert since the US attacks
French police have arrested seven people suspected of planning to attack American targets in France.

Counter-intelligence officers detained the seven, including an undetermined number of women, in a series of dawn raids in Paris on the orders of anti-terrorist magistrates.

French authorities said the suspects were believed to belong to militant Islamic groups.

Meanwhile, in Germany police issued warrants for two men suspected of having links to the hijackers who attacked America last week.

Police sources said some of the suspects had been under surveillance since July when a French-Algerian man held in Dubai confessed to planning to attack the US embassy in Paris, according to Reuters news agency.

The Algerian Djamel Beghal, who is believed to have links with Saudi-born militant Osama Bin Laden, is said to have provided the names and addresses of militants living in Paris.

At least one of the group arrested in France is said to have been in contact with him.

Dubai link

The BBC's Paris correspondent, James Coomarasamy, said the investigation leading up to the arrests began on 10 September - the day before the US attacks.

He says the arrests in Paris are linked to a series of other arrests earlier in the week in Belgium and the Netherlands.

French media says police on the case are investigating links to the so-called Beghal network, named after the man held in Dubai.

French officials are planning to fly to the United Arab Emirates to interview the man and are planning to request his extradition to France, Reuters reported.

Last year, a court in France sentenced an Algerian Muslim to four years in prison after he was found guilty of heading a terrorist network.

Arrest warrants

The German authorities have announced they are seeking two men suspected of links to the hijackers who attacked New York and Washington.

They issued arrest warrants for Ramzi Binalshibh, 29, a Yemeni national, and Said Bahaji, 26, a German of Moroccan origin, said Federal Prosecutor Kay Nehm.

Mr Bahaji, who along with Mr Binalshibh lived in Hamburg, had already been named as a suspect.

Both are suspected of plotting the attacks on America along with three of the suicide hijackers, who lived in Germany at one stage.

"Bahaji and Binalshibh were part of preparations for the plan at least since 1999," the prosecutor's office said.

Ms Nehm added that no link between the suspects and Washington's prime suspect, Osama Bin Laden, had yet been proven.

See also:

18 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Megawati flies to meet Bush
18 Sep 01 | Americas
France backs US on terrorism
18 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blair embarks on diplomatic offensive
17 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghanistan - a tough military option
18 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
China demands US attack evidence
20 Sep 01 | Americas
Chirac: Fighting terror a priority
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