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Belgium Cautious After Threat

June 28, 1999

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ Belgium set up a security task force Monday to deal with a militant Algerian group’s threat to launch terrorist attacks if it does not release imprisoned members within three weeks.

On Friday, the Martyr’s Battalion-Europe, an offshoot of the Armed Islamic Group, gave Belgium 20 days to ``stop the torture of our brothers,″ according to the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper.

``The main point is now to coordinate our efforts,″ Justice Minister Tony Van Parys said Monday after a meeting of Justice and Interior Ministry officials.

``We are taking this very seriously,″ Foreign Minister Eric Derycke said.

Neither would give further details of the meeting.

A Belgian court sentenced the leader of a gang linked to Algerian Islamic Group militants to nine years imprisonment in May, partly for his role in a shootout with police during a daylong siege of a Brussels house last year.

Farid Melouk, 33, received the longest sentence in the trial of 11 suspects accused of belonging to a European-based support network for the Armed Islamic Group, also known by its French acronym, GIA. The group is blamed for mass killings in Algeria and bombings in France.

The suspects were arrested after authorities received information that their group was trying to set up European bases for violent attacks. They were charged with illegal possession of firearms, forgery and criminal association.

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