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Wednesday, 19 December, 2001, 18:14 GMT
Belgium arrests al-Qaeda suspect
Remains of the Twin Towers after the terror attacks
Europe has tightened security since the US attacks
Belgian police have arrested a man on suspicion of recruiting fighters for the al-Qaeda network.

Tarek Maaroufi. Picture taken in 1996
Maaroufi: linked to Ahmad Shah Masood killing

Tarek Maaroufi, a Belgian citizen of Tunisian origin, was charged with criminal association, forgery and recruiting for a foreign military organisation, said Jos Colpin, spokesman for the Brussels prosecutor's office.

Asked if the organisation was al-Qaeda, Mr Colpin told reporters: "We can assume that was the case."

The arrest of Mr Maaroufi, 36, was part of an investigation into theft of Belgian passports from the country's embassy in The Hague and its consulate in Strasbourg in 1999.

Masood link

The stolen passports were used by two suicide bombers who killed Afghan opposition leader Ahmad Shah Masood, just two days before the 11 September attacks in the US.

The US most-wanted
The US most-wanted terrorists

Three other men of North African origin have been already detained in Belgium on charges related to Masood's killing.

British and French police have also arrested men accused of helping the killing.

Mr Maaroufi was also wanted by Italian police, who believed he was one of the leaders of an al-Qaeda support cell in Italy.

Since the 11 September attacks several European countries have made a number of arrests of suspected members of the al-Qaeda network.

See also:

16 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Agreement on EU-wide arrest warrants
11 Dec 01 | Americas
Ashcroft embarks on European tour
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