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British Court Orders Algerians Held on Suspicion of Terrorism

By Sebastian Rotella

With police across Europe on guard against a heightened threat of attack, a British court Monday ordered three Algerians, including a alleged senior al-Qaida figure, held on suspicion of terrorist activity. French police made three more arrests in a separate case.

Authorities say their security forces have stepped up activity because of indications that al-Qaida intends to strike in Europe, where it has recruited fighters and planned operations, but has not successfully carried out an attack. Recent warnings, some concrete and others vague, have generated fear of a major attack in Europe.

“I think the threat in Europe is the highest it has been since Sept. 11,” a top French law enforcement official said Monday.

British authorities gave few details about the case against the Algerians, whom a judge ordered held for a month without bail pending investigation of suspected “preparation, instigation or commission of terrorism.”

But officials denied media reports that they had been planning a poison gas attack on London’s subway system.

“It doesn’t appear to be that there is any evidence whatsoever there was going to be a gas attack or indeed use of bombs regarding the three people who have been arrested,” said Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott in an interview with the BBC.

One of the suspects, Rabah Kadre, is a heavyweight in Europe-wide al-Qaida networks based in London, according to French and Belgian investigators.

Kadre, 35, was a close associate of Abu Doha, the alleged leader of an Algerian-dominated network and accused mastermind of a failed attempt to bomb Los Angeles International Airport in 1999, investigators said.

Kadre also was an active recruiter sending French Muslims to Afghan training camps, according to authorities.