Man held in London in connection with World Trade Center attack arrested on U.S. warrant

Friday, September 28th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LONDON (AP) _ An Algerian pilot arrested in London instructed four of the hijackers involved in the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon, prosecutors said Friday at a hearing for his extradition to the United States.

Lotfi Raissi, 27, who was arrested on Sept. 21, appeared in Bow Street Magistrates Court on a U.S. warrant seeking his extradition.

Prosecutors said that Raissi was wanted in the United States on charges of giving false information in connection with his application for a pilot's license. They said he qualified in the United States as a pilot in 1997, attending the same flight school as four of the hijackers involved in the Sept. 11 attacks.

The prosecution claimed that Raissi had instructed the hijackers and helped make arrangements for them, but gave no details.

Richard Egan, Raissi's defense lawyer, said his client rejected the allegations. ``He adamantly denies any involvement in the recent appalling tragedies,'' he said outside the court.

Raissi was arrested by anti-terrorist police along with three other people. A man and a woman were later released without charge, but police earlier this week requested an additional 48 hours to question Raissi and Abu Imard, 44.

Police in central England were still holding three men detained Tuesday under the Terrorism Act. Leicestershire police said the men were linked to previous arrests in France and Belgium, but gave few details.

In a coordinated effort, police across Europe have arrested at least 20 people and shadowed dozens of others, piecing together the first clues of what may be a network of terror stretching across the continent and beyond.

Many of the suspects are believed to have links to Osama bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the terror attacks in the United States, authorities said.

In Spain, where six Algerians were arrested Wednesday, Interior Minister Mariano Rajoy said many of the arrests flowed from cooperation among European Union countries.

He said some of the Algerians had been in contact with one of the first terror suspects rounded up in Europe after the U.S. attacks _ Nizar Trabelsi, a Tunisian arrested Sept. 13 in Belgium.

French judicial officials say Djamel Begal, a French-Algerian man arrested in Dubai in July, has been key to rounding-up suspects and thwarting attacks.

France's top anti-terrorism judge, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, traveled last week to the United Arab Emirates to question Begal, who authorities have now tied to other individuals arrested in the Netherlands and Belgium.

French police and judicial authorities, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was Begal who tipped them off to plots against the U.S. Embassy in Paris. The information led to the arrests of seven people in France on Sept 21. Officials said the eighth suspect was arrested in Leicestershire.

In New Zealand, meanwhile, authorities said Friday that two Afghan asylum seekers who had been transferred from a Norwegian ship were taken to prison ``for security reasons.'' The two men were aged 16 and 17, but authorities gave no details of the reasons for their detention.