SUSPECT TERROR FINANCIER ARRESTED IN FRANCE
French authorities have arrested the administrator of an extremist French website who is suspected of playing a key role in financing and recruiting for Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in several countries, the Paris prosecutor’s office has said on Tuesday 07/03/2012.
The announcement on Tuesday was unusually dramatic for French authorities, but it did not spell out what evidence has been culled or how much money may have been involved. It is the first publicly announced suspected terrorist arrest since President Francois HoLlande took office in May 2012.
The suspect – whom prosecutors call a “formidable financier of the bloodiest terrorist groups” – was being questioned on Tuesday by anti-terrorism judge Marc Trevidic in Paris. The man faces preliminary charges of planning terrorist acts and financing a terrorist enterprise, the prosecutor’s office said.
The suspect, born in Tunisia in 1977, was based in the southern French city of Toulon. He was arrested on Friday 06/29/2012 after a yearlong investigation, the prosecutor’s statement said. It did not give his name.
The prosecutor cited “serious and concordant evidence” that the suspect sent material from his computer to terrorist groups. It says he played a “central role” in collecting funds for terrorist groups to buy weapons, but did not elaborate on how much money was involved.
Prosecutors say he is suspected of acting as a financier and recruiter for Al Qaeda, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – AQAP, MAGHREB al-Qaeda – AQIM, Fatah al-Islam and the Islamic State of Iraq, among other groups.
Investigators studied thousands of email messages and analysed a “considerable mass” of data, prosecutors said. They called it an exceptionally advanced example of “the use of the Internet for terrorist ends in the domain of radical Islam.”
A former senior French counterterrorism official, Louis Caprioli, said the suspected terrorism financing was likely in the thousands of euros, to purchase weapons, and not something on a larger scale. But he said it is “unusual” to find enough evidence to charge someone with alleged terrorism financing and said this suspect “has a dangerous profile, a profile superior to other suspects.”
France’s Europe-1 radio reported that the suspect’s website was in French but hosted outside France, and that it included an encrypted private messaging function that allowed the suspect to communicate with foreign terrorist groups.
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