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Tuesday, 26 November, 2002, 19:00 GMT
'Shoe bomber' arrests in Paris
The shoes Richard Reid was wearing on board the flight in December 2001
US officials say Richard Reid did not act alone
French police have arrested eight suspected Islamic militants in connection with a British man's attempt to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight with explosives in his shoes.

One of those arrested is an imam at a mosque north of Paris. Six are Pakistanis.

Plainclothes policeman carrying a bundle of documents
Police recovered many documents
Police said they picked up "two big fish" linked to Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network during Tuesday's raid - the third in four days in the Paris area "to establish what Richard Reid was doing in Paris".

US officials say Mr Reid trained with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

They say he stayed in Paris for several days before boarding an American Airlines flight to Miami on 22 December 2001.

'Big fish'

The dawn operation was centred on the 10th arrondissement in northern Paris, where a mosque, a prayer hall and a restaurant, all frequented by the Pakistani community, were the main targets.

Another six suspects were arrested in a separate operation on Monday - part of a police investigation into underground recruiting networks for Islamic militants.

Richard Reid
Reid was overpowered by passengers
They include Slimane Khalfaoui - a 27-year-old man of Algerian origin who is suspected of allegedly plotting to bomb Strasbourg's cathedral two years ago.

French police had been searching for him since 1996, the Associated Press news agency said.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said Mr Khalfaoui's arrest was "a very important event in the fight against terrorism".

Five others thought to have provided false passports for Muslim radicals were taken in for questioning at the weekend.

As part of the same inquiry, two French nationals and a Pakistani, Ghulam Mustafa Rama, were placed under investigation in June for "association with criminals preparing a terrorist act". Mr Rama, who ran a butcher's shop, is suspected of running a support network for Mr Reid, and of recruiting militants.

No progress

Mr Reid has pleaded guilty to charges of trying to destroy the airliner with 197 people on board.

The flight landed safely in Boston after he was overpowered by airline stewards and other passengers.

French anti-terrorism judge Jean-Louis Brugieres has been searching for contacts Mr Reid may have made during that period before the event.

Police know he spent time in Paris and in Brussels, and they suspect from e-mails he sent from an internet cafe that he had financial and logistic help in France.

But they have not yet established the full picture says Hugh Schofield, reporting for the BBC in Paris.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jon Sopel
"At Paris police headquarters this morning eight people were taken in for questioning"
The BBC's Hugh Schofield
"There was a series of raids in the Paris suburbs"

Key stories

European probe

Background

IN DEPTH
See also:

26 Nov 02 | South Asia
23 May 02 | Americas
15 Jun 02 | Europe
20 Jun 02 | Europe
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