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Paris Police Question Airport Worker Found With Guns and Explosives - 2002-12-30


Police in Paris are questioning an airport baggage handler arrested in possession of automatic weapons and a explosive device ready for use.

Authorities say 27-year-old Abderazak Besseghir, a French citizen of Algerian origin, was arrested at Charles de Gaulle airport Saturday after someone reported seeing a weapon in his car. He had access to restricted areas of the airport.

Police say the suspect has denied responsibility for the weapons and has suggested that someone planted them in his car.

French investigators are looking into the possibility of a terrorist plot, but have cited no motive. They say the suspect has no known ties to extremist organizations and no criminal record except for a vandalism incident five years ago.

Police searched the Besseghir home in a Paris suburb (Bondy) and detained his father, two brothers and a family friend, all of whom are being questioned.

French legal authorities have the right to hold suspects in terrorism cases for up to 96 hours, before either commencing a formal investigation -- one step short of bringing criminal charges -- or releasing them.

Charles de Gaulle airport, where the man worked, is where Richard Reid, a British man accused of links to the al-Qaida terrorist network, managed to board a plane bound for Miami a year ago with explosives hidden in his shoe.

French police have arrested nine suspected Islamic militants over the past two weeks, trying to break up a terrorist organization recruiting young Muslims. Authorities say they believe attacks were being planned on the Russian embassy in Paris by terrorist groups based in the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya.

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