British-based pilot 'linked to bin Laden supporter'

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The Independent Online

An Algerian pilot accused of training one of the 11 September hijackers is suspected of being connected to an alleged terror cell operating from London, a court was told yesterday.

Lotfi Raissi, 27, is accused of links with a man suspected of being a supporter of Osama bin Laden. The allegations against Mr Raissi, and another Algerian, Amar Makhlulis, also known as The Doctor, were made during an extradition hearing at Belmarsh magistrates' court in south-east London.

The American authorities want both men sent to the US to face trial for terrorist offences. Paul Warner, representing the US government, said Mr Raissi, who was arrested with his wife at his home in Colnbrook, Berkshire, on 21 September, was suspected of being linked to Mr Makhlulis.

He told the hearing that the authorities were trying to get evidence showing that Mr Raissi had trained in an aircraft with Hani Hanjour, believed to have been the suicide pilot who flew into the Pentagon. He said Mr Raissi was wanted in the US for allegedly making a false statement on a US Federal Aviation Authority application.

Despite claims by Mr Raissi's defence that the US authorities had failed to produce any evidence against him, District Judge Timothy Workman refused bail and remanded him in custody until 14 December.

Mr Makhlulif, 37, also known as Abu Doha, was also remanded in custody until the same date. He has been named by US prosecutors as a leading figure in the al-Qa'ida terrorist network and is charged with conspiracy to cause explosions.

Mr Makhlulif was arrested in July and is accused by the US of involvement in an alleged plot on Millennium Eve to blow up an airport in Los Angeles.

He is also accused of helping terrorists to travel to Mr bin Laden's training camps in Afghanistan and of sending others to Canada to prepare for the attack.