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Last Updated: Friday, 5 December, 2003, 21:08 GMT
Bolivia frees nine Bangladeshis
Bolivian policeman
The suspects were apparently arrested about to board a plane
The Bolivian Government has ordered the release of nine Bangladeshis less than a day after they were arrested on suspicion of links to terrorism.

The men were among 28 Bangladeshis arrested on Thursday at an airport near the eastern city of Santa Cruz. The others have already been freed.

Bolivia's Government said the arrests had been made after French police said the men were planning a plane hijack.

But prosecutors say no evidence linking the men to terrorism has been found.

It had been reported that the nine were to be deported by Bolivia for "reasons of state security".

But Bolivian Interior Minister Alfonso Ferrufino said they would be allowed to remain in the country while the investigation continued.

He said the men had been living in Bolivia for a year and that their work visas were up to date.

Jitters spread

The Bolivian press reported that a French anti-terrorism unit warned about Bangladeshis who had obtained French visas on Monday.

The men were then reportedly arrested at Viru Viru airport, near Santa Cruz, last Tuesday.

They were trying to board an Argentine airliner destined for the Argentine capital Buenos Aires, according to the official ABI agency.

Reports suggested the men were planning to crash the hijacked plane into American interests in Argentina.

However, the chief prosecutor in Santa Cruz, Jaime Solis, told the BBC no evidence had been found linking the nine men who remain in detention with the alleged plans.

The reports have added to fears in Argentina that it could be the next target of a terrorist attack, says the BBC correspondent in Buenos Aires Elliot Gotkine.

Last week the Argentine Government warned it had received information about possible attacks on American, British or Spanish targets.

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