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Tunisian extradited to US over NATO bomb plot

Trabelsi, a former Fortuna Duesseldorf footballer, faces several charges, including conspiring to kill Americans abroad.

Last Modified: 03 Oct 2013 23:50
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Trabelsi was arrested in Belgium two days after September 11, 2001 attacks on US [AFP]

A former Tunisian professional footballer turned convicted al-Qaeda fighter has been extradited from Belgium to the US to face suicide bombing charges, officials have said.

Nizar Trabelsi, 43, was arrested in Belgium two days after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US.

He was convicted by a Belgian court in 2003 of plotting to blow himself up at the NATO Kleine Brogel base, which housed US soldiers.

Trabelsi, who is a former professional soccer player who played for German Bundesliga team Fortuna Duesseldorf in the 1980s, was imprisoned in Belgium until his extradition.

Based on the same alleged plot, he faces US charges of conspiring to kill Americans abroad, conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction and supporting a foreign terrorist  organisation, according to an indictment in US District Court in Washington, DC.

Trabelsi pleaded not guilty via a defence lawyer at a hearing on Thursday, a spokesman for prosecutors said.

A hearing was scheduled for Monday.

Bin Laden meeting

The FBI said on Thursday that the indictment alleged Trabelsi met al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the spring of 2001 to volunteer for a suicide bomb attack against US interests.

"Preparations unfolded over the next several months, according to the indictment, with Trabelsi allegedly obtaining chemicals in Europe and subsequently joining others to scout a potential target: a military facility that was used by the United States and the United States Air Force," the FBI said in a written statement.

"According to the indictment, he later spoke with Muhammed Atef, a high-ranking member and chief military planner of al-Qaeda, at bin Laden’s direction.

"Additionally, the indictment states, he met with others with whom he was to form a cell for the purpose of carrying out a suicide attack."

Trabelsi's lawyer was not immediately available for comment.

Authorities allege Trabelsi scouted the Kleine Brogel base at night months later and had chemicals that could be used as a weapon.

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