Monday, July 25, 2005

Al-Qaeda man recruited in Belfast is jailed in Algeria

Barry O'Kelly:

A man recruited by al-Qaeda in Ireland has been jailed in Algeria for running an extremist organisation.

Mohamed Meguerba, 38, who lived in Ranelagh, Dublin and married an Irish woman, was given a ten-year sentence two weeks ago.

He allegedly told interrogators in Algiers that he joined al-Qaeda following a meeting at a mosque in Belfast in 2000.

Meguerba lived in Dublin for seven years, before leaving to join a training camp run by associates of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.

He was later captured by police in Algiers in 2003 and quickly supplied a detailed account of a plot to spread the deadly poison ricin on buildings in London. Ricin is a cheap, easily produced toxin for which there is no treatment or vaccine.

Meguerba's statement, allegedly extracted under torture, led to his conviction for setting up and belonging to an outlawed organisation in Algeria. The statement also identified eight people who were claimed to have been behind the poison plot. This led to a raid on a London flat in which detectives found the paraphernalia for making ricin.

One of those arrested in the raids, Kamel Bourgass, 31, was jailed for 17 years in April for conspiring to cause a public nuisance. He was also jailed for life for killing a police officer during the raid.

Detectives believe he was planning to smear the chemical, or other poisons, on the door handles of cars and buildings in the Holloway Road area of north London.

Last week, Bourgass lost an appeal against his life sentence. His lawyers had argued in the Court of Appeal sitting at Woolwich Crown Court that details about the ricin plot should not have been used in the separate murder trial.

Gardai are believed to have investigated associates of Meguerba when the 27-page statement obtained by Algerian police emerged in early 2003. The statement outlines his allegedly senior role in organising attacks in Europe. It reportedly includes details of his so-called line manager, Abu ‘The Doctor' Doha, an Algerian militant leader with links to bin Laden, and who is currently being held in prison in London.

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