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French Say Suspect Is Qaeda Big

US President Barack Obama puts down a rose in front of the gate building at the Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar, Germany, Friday, June 5, 2009. Obama, who is en route from Egypt to France, visited Dresden before visiting the former Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald and the US regional medical center in Landstuhl during his stopover in Germany. (AP Photo/Oliver Multhaup, POOL)
AP Photo/Oliver Multhaup
A German arrested last week because of his suspected involvement in a deadly Tunisian terror attack is a ranking al Qaeda member and has been in contact with Osama bin Laden, France's interior minister said Wednesday.

Christian Ganczarski, 36, was arrested June 3 at Charles de Gaulle Airport for his alleged role in an April 2002 attack that killed 21 people, including 14 German tourists, at a synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia.

French intelligence agents believe Ganczarski is a ranking al Qaeda official, has been in contact with al Qaeda leader bin Laden and served in Afghanistan and Bosnia, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy told Parliament.

Ganczarski is a specialist in computers and telecommunications, the minister said.

On Saturday, Ganczarski was placed under investigation — a step short of being charged — for "complicity in murder" in the synagogue attack.

Nizar Naouar, the suspected suicide attacker who blew up a truckload of natural gas at the historic synagogue, was believed to have placed a call to Ganczarski just before the attack.

Ganczarski was arrested by German police, freed for lack of evidence and arrested again in April in Saudi Arabia. He then was released a second time.

Meanwhile, a Moroccan arrested June 1 as he traveled through Paris told investigators that Ganczarski was "one of the organizers and the financier" of an attack being planned on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion, Sarkozy said.

Karim Mehdi, 34, told France's top anti-terrorism judge that he was headed to Reunion to scout out the island ahead of a possible attack using a booby-trapped car, Sarkozy said.

Judicial officials said at the time of the arrests they suspected that both Mehdi and Ganczarski had ties with the Hamburg cell of al Qaeda, the original base of Mohammed Atta, the ringleader in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States.

Fifty-one people with suspected links to terrorism have been arrested in France since November, Sarkozy said.

France has more significant ties to the Muslim world than other Western European countries because of its long presence in Algeria and other former colonies.

In other news on terrorism:

  • Ali Ahmad Jalali, Afghanistan's interior minister, said suicide attackers are being trained to carry out strikes against foreign soldiers in Afghanistan, but gave no details. Four German soldiers and one Afghan civilian were killed in a recent blast, while 29 German peacekeepers were wounded.
  • In Berlin, German Defense Minster Peter Struck said the suicide attacker who carried out Saturday's attack was a member of al Qaeda network.
  • An Islamic militant accused in last year's Bali terror attacks told a court Thursday why he builds bombs: He wants foreigners out of Indonesia and thinks late night television shows and Western movies are immoral. Defendant Amrozi bin Nurhasyim also said "white people" killed in the Oct. 12 bombings deserved to die because of what they have done to Muslims. More than 200 people died, mostly foreign tourists, when bombs ripped through two nightclubs on the Indonesian resort island.
  • U.S. counterterrorism training aimed at crushing al Qaeda-linked Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines has been tentatively reset to December to ensure the U.S. troop presence doesn't violate the Philippine constitution, military officials said.
  • The FBI urged local authorities to take precautions against cell phones modified so they could detonate bombs by remote control.
  • A Cambodian Muslim man was charged with international terrorism and links with the regional terror network Jemaah Islamiyah, while police launched a manhunt for four Muslim foreigners suspected to be his collaborators.
  • Authorities confiscated a Bangkok tourist map with circled targets from three Thai Muslims arrested this week in an alleged plot to attack foreign embassies and U.S. interests in Thailand, police say. Police also announced Wednesday they are seeking another Thai Muslim suspected of being part of the alleged plot.