An ambitious terrorist plot to attack a host of American interests overseas was foiled by the capture of a key Osama bin Laden operative, sources tell ABCNEWS.
MORE INVESTIGATIVE NEWS: • Six Arrested in Spain • Insight Into the Network • New Arrests in Possible Truck Terror Plot • Suspects Held Without Bail • Poison from the Air?
Intelligence sources in Europe and the United States say the intended targets included the American embassy in Paris, the U.S. consulate in Marseilles, France, buildings at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium and the European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France.
The outlines of the plan were known to French and American authorities before Sept. 11, but the attacks were not scheduled to take place until much later this year. Authorities had reportedly been watching the suspected terrorist cells for several weeks but moved in quickly after the attacks on New York and suburban Washington.
Sources say the terrorist ring was made up of roughly 50 individuals. Thirty have reportedly been taken into custody in France, Britain, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium, and 20 are still being sought in a Europe-wide manhunt.
According to intelligence sources, a bin Laden operative was captured this summer in Dubai with a forged French passport. As he was being interrogated by Dubai authorities, Djamel Beghal, an Algerian national, revealed the list of targets and identities of other members of the terrorist ring.
Check back for continuous updates on the hunt for terrorists from ABCNEWS' worldwide investigative team.
Six Arrested in Spain
Six Algerians suspected of having links to bin Laden were arrested in Spain, the Spanish government announced today.
The six are connected to two detained members of a group planning suicide attacks against U.S. interests in Europe, said Spanish Interior Minister Mariano Rajoy. Those two, Nizar Trabelsi, a Tunisian, and Jerome Courtailler, a Frenchman, were arrested Sept. 13 in Belgium and the Netherlands respectively.
Rajoy did not say if there was any evidence the six took part in planning the Sept. 11 suicide attacks in New York and suburban Washington.
Ten other people were also detained by Spanish authorities on suspicion of collaborating with the six Algerians. The six belonged to a bin Laden-backed dissident faction of the Armed Islamic Group, Algeria's hardline insurgency movement, Rajoy said.
Insight Into the Network
The arrests in Spain, made in tandem with colleagues in Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Britain and Belgium, were testament to the collaboration between European Union and United States authorities in tracking down terrorists with ties to bin Laden.
In a nationwide sweep, the Algerians were picked up in Spain's northern province of Navarra, southern provinces of of Almeria and Huelva, and eastern province of Valencia.