Thursday, June 16, 2011

Egyptian al-Qaida suspect arrested at airport

By SARAH EL DEEB Associated Press

CAIRO- June 16, 2011—An Egyptian suspected of belonging to Yemen's branch of al-Qaida was detained Thursday upon arrival in Egypt from Yemen, an airport official said.

The official said the man, his Yemeni wife and three children returned to Egypt on Thursday with false documents.

The official said interrogators identified the man as Rabie Abdullah, convicted in absentia to five years in one of Egypt's largest terrorism trials in the 1990s. He was speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The new al-Qaida leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, was sentenced in the same case along with more than 100 others, most of them in absentia. The suspects were convicted on charges ranging from forgery to conspiracy to topple the government.

The 42-year old Abdullah denied the charges against him during the airport interrogation, the official said, and he will get a retrial.

The official said Abdullah left Egypt in 1991 for Turkey, Yemen and Afghanistan. He lost his passport in Afghanistan and returned to Yemen using a fake identity. There, he is suspected of joining the local al-Qaida branch, the official said.

Abdullah told his interrogators he returned from Yemen because of the conflict there and that he wanted to settle in Egypt, the official said.

Yemen is home to one of the most active al-Qaida branches, which has been linked to several nearly successful attacks on U.S. targets, including the plot to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner in December 2009. The group has been emboldened by the current turmoil in the impoverished Gulf nation.

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