Belgians hold 8 Algerians in crackdown on terror groups

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The Independent Online
ARMED Islamic extremists are using Belgium as their main logistical back up station for terrorist activities in Algeria, state security sources in Brussels admitted yesterday.

Police carried out further raids on houses in the capital and in Verviers in southern Belgium following a siege on Thursday which ended in the arrest of eight Algerians believed to be leading members of Algeria's Armed Islamic Group. The swoop was the culmination of months of surveillance and followed intelligence from British police and immigration authorities.

Belgium's interior minister, Johan Vande Lanotte, hailed the arrests as a breakthrough in efforts to combat Algerian terrorism. But Belgian security service sources, quoted in yesterday's newspapers, said the country is being used as an important "support network".

As well as a clearing house for weapons, Belgium is thought to be a key point for the manufacture of fake identity papers, money laundering and fundraising. French officials believe these clandestine networks were set up in Belgium shortly before the Paris bombings of 1995. Belgium's proximity to northern France where a number of suspected Islamic networks are established is a key factor.

Thursday's 11-hour siege ended in the arrest of Farid Melouk, described by the French authorities as a leading terrorist. Melouk who was sentenced to eight years in prison by a French court in his absence last week, surrendered after a shoot-out which left him seriously wounded. A special police unit stormed a house in central Brussels at dawn on Thursday morning.

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