September 5, 2006

Nine held in Denmark over suspected terrorist plot

By Kim McLaughlin

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Danish security police on Tuesday
arrested nine men suspected of plotting to carry out a
terrorist bomb attack in the Nordic country.

Justice Minister Lene Espersen said most of the men are
Danish citizens and that police had acted after discovering
several of the group had collected materials to make

"This is what is most alarming. These are Danish citizens
living in Denmark that have been plotting a terror attack in
Denmark," she said.

She gave no details about the potential target of an

Reports in Danish media said the men were aged between 18
and 35. Earlier, police had said they were all aged under 30.

They were arrested early Tuesday morning in Vollsmose, a
poor district mainly inhabited by immigrants in Denmark's third
largest city, Odense. They were held under anti-terrorism laws
introduced after the September 11 attacks in the United States.

Denmark, which has troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan,
last month charged five Muslim men under the anti-terrorism

Espersen said the Danish Security Intelligence Service
(PET) had been watching the men in Odense for some time.

"PET have told me that they arrested the men now because it
could be difficult to discover more precisely how far the plans
had progressed," she said.

Vollsmose, with its roughly 10,000 citizens from dozens of
nationalities and high unemployment, has repeatedly been cited
by Danish media as an example of integration gone wrong.

The arrests come hard on the heels of incidents in Britain
and Germany where authorities said they had uncovered terrorist
plots aimed at transport networks.

"We have had the arrests in London and in Germany and for
years we have expected that at some time it could happen in
Denmark," said Peter Seeberg, head of the Center for
Contemporary Middle East Studies at the University of Southern
Denmark in Odense.


Seeberg said a large number of immigrants in Odense come
from Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

"So it might have something to do with what has happened
this summer (Israel's war against Lebanese Hizbollah
guerrillas)," he said. "It could have something to do with the
Danish involvement in Iraq or the case of the (Prophet)
Mohammad cartoons or a combination of the three."

Earlier this year, cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammad
published in a Danish paper sparked Muslim anger and led to
attacks on Danish embassies in parts of Asia, Africa and the
Middle East in which more than 50 people died.

PET said several of the nine arrested on Tuesday would face
a custody hearing later in the day. Under Danish law, suspects
can be held for numerous months during investigation.

PET director Lars Findsen said the arrests would not
immediately affect Denmark's terrorism-risk assessment, which
has been heightened for some time. He said police had contacted
a number of Muslim leaders to inform them about the situation.

Four young Muslims arrested last October were charged on
August 24 and face prosecution for trying to obtain weapons and
explosives with the intent of carrying out an act of terrorism.

Earlier in August, Said Mansur, a Moroccan-born Dane
accused of inciting fellow Muslims to violent holy war, became
the first person to face prosecution under the new laws.

(Additional reporting by Gelu Sulugiuc and Maretin Burlund)