Moroccan arrested in probe of Sept. 11 attacks

Thursday, June 5th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PARIS (AP) -- French authorities have arrested a Moroccan man in connection with an investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, judicial officials said Thursday.

Karim Mehdi, 34, was taken into custody on Sunday at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, the officials said on condition of anonymity. He had arrived from Germany and planned to leave to the French island of La Reunion off southeastern Africa.

The arrest was the first in France since French anti-terrorism judges opened an investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks just a few weeks after they took place in 2001.

Mehdi was to appear before a judge Thursday evening before being placed under investigation -- one step short of being officially charged -- for alleged connection with a terrorist enterprise, officials said.

The judicial sources said they believe Mehdi had links to a suspected cell of the al-Qaida terror network operating out of Hamburg, Germany.

Three of the suicide hijackers who seized control of commercial airliners for the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington -- including the alleged ringleader, Mohammed Atta -- allegedly had ties to the Hamburg cell.

A Hamburg court in February convicted Mounir el Motassadeq, also a Moroccan, and sentenced him to 15 years in prison for providing support for the Hamburg cell. He was the first Sept. 11 suspect anywhere in the world to be convicted for his part in the attacks.

Another Moroccan man, Abdelghani Mzoudi, is to go on trial in August in Hamburg on the same charges.