Moroccan Detained in Terror Case
SEATTLE (AP) _ A Moroccan man detained after entering the United States from Canada was being held as a material witness for the case against an Algerian arrested with a car full of explosives, The Seattle Times reported today.
Meanwhile, a man suspected of plotting a bomb attack against the United States, and who reportedly has links to the millionaire Saudi Arabian fugitive Osama bin Laden, was arrested in the West African nation of Mauritania, security officials there said.
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 treated the case with an unusual level of secrecy and would not say what alerted them to Karroum, or in which case he would be a material witness.
However, Justice Department sources told The Seattle Times that the case involves an investigation related to Ahmed Ressam, the Algerian arrested Dec. 14 in Port Angeles with a car full of explosives.
Karroum was arrested by agents from the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Customs Service who became suspicious about his documentation, the Times reported. In addition, a computer check showed that his name was ``red-flagged″ by the FBI, the newspaper said.
During a search of Karroum’s vehicle, bomb-sniffing dogs reacted to traces of a chemical officials think may be the explosive nitroglycerin, the Times said. However, no bomb was found and law-enforcement sources said the dogs can be wrong and that further tests are required.
Law-enforcement officials told the Times that they are unsure about where Karroum fits in the investigation but said his arrest is part of a dragnet thrown over four continents.
Karroum’s lawyer, Gene Grantham, said his client was not being held as a suspect. ``He’s being held to determine if he knows anything about other ongoing investigations,″ Grantham said.
Customs spokeswoman Cherise Miles referred calls to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
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 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.