Paris embassy terrorist attack plot

This article is about the Al-Qaida plot to destroy the United States embassy in Paris, France, as well as a munitions depot in Belgium. The NATO headquarters in Brussels was also possibly targeted.

The plot

The operation was based out of an apartment in Rotterdam, Netherlands. The Rotterdam cell probably provided the false passports that were used in the assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud.

Tunisian Nizar Trabelsi, an ex-football player for Germany, planned the attack and was the designated suicide bomber. A gifted IT student named Kamel Daoudi led the cell and was the alleged bomb maker.

The plan called for a bomb to be built out of sulphur and acetone. Trabelsi planned to strap this bomb onto himself, and cover it up with a business suit. He would then detonate himself in the U.S. embassy.

Then, a van packed with explosives would be driven into the U.S. cultural center of Paris and the explosives inside would be detonated nearby Place de la Madeleine.

The confession that ended it

The plot began to unravel when a 36-year old French Algerian conspirator named Djamel Beghal was arrested in late July 2001 for passport fraud at Dubai International Airport in the United Arab Emirates. He was trying to travel to back Europe on a false French passport after receiving training in Afghanistan. Trabelsi went to Brussels and disappeared.

Beghal confessed details of the plot after interrogation. Beghal said that he was relaying instructions from the top brass of Al-Qaida. He recanted parts of his confession after he went back to France, claiming that it had been given under duress. By August, the Dutch police wiretapped the Rotterdam cell.

The French government opened an inquiry into the plot on 10 September, 2001, one day before the September 11, 2001 attacks occurred. Surveillance had started that day on a group of suspected terrorists in Corbeil-Essone, France, near Paris.

Under arrest

On 13 September, four men were arrested in Rotterdam. On the same day, Trabelsi and a Belgian Moroccan were arrested in two different areas of the Brussels metropolitan area. At Trabelsi's Uccle apartment, police found machine pistols, chemical formulas for bomb-making, detailed maps of the U.S. embassy in Paris, and a business suit. They also found fifty liters of acetone and 65 kilograms of sulphate.

When French surveillance officers heard several men contemplating on destroying the evidence on computers, police moved in and arrested them on 21 September.

Algerian Mohammed Berkous was also arrested for the plot.

Belgian police raided an Egyptian snack bar in the heart of Brussels, where they found 100 kg (220 lb) of sulphur and 50 liters (13 gallons) of acetone.

Kamel Daoudi was deported from the United Kingdom on 29 September.

On 10 October, Beghal confessed to being a member of al-Tafkir wal-Hijra group, which is believed to be a satellite group of Al-Qaida run by Osama Bin Laden. Beghal said that Bin Laden ordered the attack and that a man named Zein-al-Abideen Mohammed Hussein recruited him. The man turned out to be Abu Zubaydah.

Epilogue

Investigators say that the discovery of the Paris plot uncovered a large network of Islamist terrorists in seven European countries and the United Arab Emirates. The terrorists were affiliated with the Salafist Group For Call And Combat and its partner organization, Takfir Wal Hijra, meaning "excommunication and exile". Several Spanish men were arrested for making false credit cards.

Nizar Trabelsi was convicted of trying to destroy public property, illegal arms possession and being a member in a private militia.

On 28 December, 2002, four suspected conspirators, Frenchman Jerome Courtailler, Saaid Ibrahim, a Dutchman from Ethiopia, and Algerians Abdelghani Rabia and Adel Tobbichi were found not guilty of terrorism by a Dutch court.

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