A Belgian magistrate has ordered six out of 14 people held on Thursday on suspicion of links to Al Qaeda to remain in custody, including a woman who has openly spread militant propaganda on the Internet.
The woman, Malika El Aroud, is the widow of one of the two men who assassinated anti-Taliban Afghan rebel leader Ahmad Shah Masood two days before the September 11 attacks in 2001.
She is well known to security officials as a propagandist on militant Islamist websites, although she denies any involvement with weapons or bombings.
“It’s not my role to set off bombs that’s ridiculous,” she told the New York Times in an interview last May. “I have a weapon. It’s to write. It’s to speak out. That’s my jihad. You can do many things with words. Writing is also a bomb.”
She and five men aged 20-30 are charged with belonging to a terrorist organisation, a crime that could lead to a maximum prison term of 10 years, although a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office said on Friday that the charges could be adjusted in time. All those held have Belgian
Belgian authorities carried out a series of morning raids, mostly in Brussels, on Thursday and held 14 people, one of them they suspect of planning an imminent suicide attack for which he had made a farewell video.
Attack on Brown foiled
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other European leaders could have been target of the foiled attack reports released by Belgian police revealed.
The action occurred hours before European Union leaders began a summit in the Belgian capital, although officials said they did not know where the attack was planned.
Prosecutors say El Aroud’s current husband Moez Garsalloui, not one of those held, had provided a link between the group and high-ranking Al Qaeda figures.
They say their investigation, which began more than a year ago, has given them an insight into the “Belgian branch of Al Qaeda” and trips by a number of suspected militants to Afghanistan or Pakistan for fighting or training.
The six must appear before a court within five days. Their detention can then be extended for a further month.