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Moroccan Arrested at Canada Border

January 29, 2000

SEATTLE (AP) _ A Moroccan man detained after crossing into the United States from Canada was being held as a material witness, but federal officials were tight-lipped about what he might know.

Meanwhile, a man suspected of plotting a bomb attack against the United States, and who reportedly has links to the millionaire fugitive Osama bin Laden, was arrested in the West African nation of Mauritania, security officials there said.

In Seattle, Youssef Karroum was detained Thursday at the border in northern Washington state, said Harold Malkin, a U.S. Attorney’s spokesman.

A U.S. magistrate judge on Friday ordered that Karroum be held as a material witness. Another court date for him was set for Tuesday.

Federal officials, who were treating the case with an unusual level of secrecy, would not say what alerted them to Karroum, or in which case he would be a material witness.

Karroum’s lawyer, Gene Grantham, did not return a telephone call seeking comment Friday evening. U.S. Customs spokeswoman Cherise Miles referred calls to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Malkin and other authorities would not say whether there was a connection between Karroum and Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian who was stopped last month in Port Angeles after crossing into the country from Canada with explosives in his car.

Ressam has pleaded innocent to charges that he had been planning a terrorist bombing.

In Mauritania, Mohambedou Ould Slahi was arrested after leaving neighboring Senegal on Wednesday, said security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Slahi, a Mauritanian who had been living in Canada, left there in part because of the investigation into Ressam, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service said Thursday.

Dan Lambert, a spokesman for Canadian intelligence, said Slahi left Canada sometime after authorities uncovered the alleged plot on Dec. 14, the same day Ressam was detained.

According to a report in The New York Times, Slahi’s brother-in-law is one of bin Laden’s top lieutenants. However, a U.S. law enforcement official said Thursday on condition of anonymity that U.S. investigators are unsure of this.

Investigators also are not sure if Slahi was a major figure in the bombing plot, or just a minor messenger, the official in Washington said.

No specific evidence has been released linking bin Laden to the newly alleged bombing plot. Authorities have not said what the targets of that plot might have been.

U.S. officials accuse bin Laden, a Saudi believed to be living in Afghanistan, of masterminding the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Those attacks killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.

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