Malaysia arrests alleged allies of '20th hijacker' Moussaoui

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The Independent Online

Thirteen men with alleged links to Zacarias Moussaoui, the man accused of being the "20th hijacker" in the attacks of 11 September, have been arrested in Malaysia.

The suspects were arrested for unspecified activities, which the police claimed were a "threat to national security".

Norian Mai, the inspector general of police, said his officers were now investigating links between the men and Mr Moussaoui, who visited Malaysia twice in 2000. "We are still investigating whether there was a link between [Mr Moussaoui] and any of the personalities we have arrested," he said.

Mr Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, appeared in an American court this week, charged in relation to the events of 11 September. Prosecutors claimed he was due to have been part of a hijacking team involved in the attacks on New York and Washington but was prevented from doing so because he had already been arrested after arousing suspicion.

The Malaysian police chief said the 13 suspects belonged to a wing of a group that the authorities call Kumpulan Militan Malaysia (KMM), believed to have links to Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida organisation. "They were arrested because they are believed to be carrying out activities which are a threat to national security, including holding secret meetings for the setting up of the Daulah Islamiah [Islamic government]," he said.

Police have previously said that the KMM is in contact with like-minded groups in neighbouring Indonesia and the Philippines that aim to create Islamic states. "There are plans to form the Daulah Islamiah covering this country, Indonesia and southern Philippines, the majority of whose people are Muslims, according to their own perception," Mr Norian added.

He said that documents containing training schedules and studies of international militant movements, such as those operating in the southern Philippines, Chechnya, Afghanistan and Ambon in Indonesia, had been found during the swoop.

Police were already holding 25 other members of the KMM, arrested since August. They are being held under Malaysia's Internal Security Act, which allows detention for up to two years without trial.