A former French Defense Ministry official says he believes police have found a notebook belonging to a suspected member of a terrorist group containing codes that could be used to decipher messages within Osama bin Laden's network.
Intelligence officials "may be able, with that, to go back to the messages that they may have intercepted already," said Alexis Debat, a teacher and author who until last year worked at the Defense Ministry.
In a telephone interview, he said "it would be a major breakthrough" if authorities were now able to decipher terrorist codes. But he added: "I don't know if they've been able to make something of it." He said the information had been passed to U.S. intelligence officials.
Debat said he got his information not from intelligence officials but from judicial officials close to the case, who told him the notebook with Arabic writing, "seemed to be a code book," and was found in the apartment of Kamel Daoudi. Daoudi has been placed under formal investigation in France for suspected links to a terror network.
Daoudi, 27, is a former computer student believed by investigators to have played a key role in a network of Islamic extremists linked to bin Laden and plotting attacks on U.S. interests in France including an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Paris.
He spent time in training camps in Afghanistan before returning to France this summer, judicial officials have said on condition of anonymity.
French police had hoped to arrest Daoudi during a Sept. 21 roundup of seven other suspects in the Essonne region south of Paris. However, he escaped to Britain, where he was detained four days later and sent back to France.
Police searching his apartment are said to have found the frames of cellular phones and dismantled alarm clocks, leading them to believe he was working on a detonation system, as well as computer materials and papers in Arabic that are still being examined. Daoudi is believed to be a computer enthusiast who worked at a cybercafe.
French intelligence officials reportedly believe Daoudi kept communications going with group members in other European countries such as the Netherlands and Belgium and also with Afghanistan, through images transmitted on the Internet.
His apartment in Essonne was also once occupied by Djamel Beghal, another suspected member of the group. Beghal told investigators in Dubai that he was recruited by a top bin Laden aide to oversee a suicide bombing at the U.S. Embassy, which was to have taken place before next March.
The operation never took place, because Beghal was arrested in late July in Dubai with a false passport. He has since withdrawn many of his statements, saying he was never tapped by bin Laden for a mission and that he testified under physical and mental duress in Dubai. He, also, has been placed under formal investigation for suspected links to a terror group.
By By JOCELYN NOVECK
©MMI The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed