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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 May, 2003, 17:25 GMT 18:25 UK
Al-Qaeda suspect tells of bomb plot
Nizar Trabelsi. Picture: February 2002
Trabelsi said he had met Bin Laden
An alleged Islamic militant has told a Belgian court how he plotted to bomb a military base on an al-Qaeda mission.

Nizar Trabelsi, a former Tunisian professional footballer, told how Osama Bin Laden's network sent him two years ago to Belgium to bomb the Kleine Brogel base, which houses nuclear missiles.

He is one of 23 alleged Islamic militants on trial. Only eight of them are in custody, while five are still on the run and the others face lesser charges.

"I was supposed to go alone in a van. The bomb was behind me," Mr Trabelsi told the Brussels court.

The plot was foiled after Mr Trabelsi's arrest in Brussels just two days after the 11 September attacks. A list of chemicals to make a bomb was found in his possession.

I was like a machine
Nizar Trabelsi
The 23 accused face a range of charges including involvement in the murder of the Afghan opposition leader, Ahmad Shah Massoud, and planning attacks on American targets in Europe.

It is only the third trial of alleged al-Qaeda supporters since the 11 September attacks.

It comes amid fresh concern over international terrorism sparked by a series of bombings and the broadcast of an alleged al-Qaeda leader's call to arms.

Canteen bomb

Mr Trabelsi, 32, and another Tunisian, Tarek Maaroufi, face the most serious charges in the trial, expected to last a month.

One of the 23 alleged Islamists militants arrives at the Brussels court
The trial opened last week amid tight security

On Tuesday, Mr Trabelsi told how he was instructed by al-Qaeda to plant a bomb into the canteen of the Kleine Brogel base, where American troops are deployed.

He said he was helped in organising the attack by a US soldier, who allegedly sold pictures of the base to an al-Qaeda operative.

"It was an American working at the base. I think he was a smoker of dope. He was given $50,000," said Mr Trabelsi, who was questioned for three hours.

However, he offered no proof and did not produce the pictures.

'Martyr'

Mr Trabelsi said he had decided to become a martyr for Bin Laden and carry out the attack after seeing pictures of a Palestinian baby girl who was killed in the Gaza Strip in 2001.

"It (the bomb) was 850 kilograms of nitrates and 100 kilograms of sulphur," he said.

"I intended to go in with the picture of the little Palestinian girl and press the detonator."

Mr Trabelsi said he had met Bin Laden personally during a visit to Afghanistan in 2001.

After his arrest, Mr Trabelsi renounced all violence, saying that the 11 September attack "was not the solution".

Belgium has no specific anti-terrorism laws. If found guilty Trabelsi and Maaroufi face up to 10 years in prison.





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