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Terror suspect on reduced charges

A suspected member of the al Qaeda terror network, left, is led out of a hotel by a police officer  

BERLIN,Germany (CNN) -- German police have reduced the charges against a man arrested on suspicion of being part of the al Qaeda terror network to holding a fake passport.

The 27-year-old Lebanese man, was arrested on Saturday in a hotel in Moenchengladbach, in western Germany, after a tip-off from the federal criminal bureau.

About 100 policemen had been used in the operation and he was charged with being a member of an illegal organisation.

But Georg Schubert, investigation chief, said on Sunday that the man has no connection to al Qaeda.

Instead the man, who has not been named, is now being held in connection with holding a false Italian passport under the name of Mario Batoldi.

He also had thousands of euros and other currencies in his possession when he was arrested, police said.

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The man has been known to German police since 1992 and has been imprisoned for several years for a number of crimes.

He is married to a German and has a three-year-old child.

Peter Spiertz, a police spokesman, had earlier in the day said that the federal criminal bureau had told them that "one, or possibly more, with an al Qaeda background" were staying at the hotel in the town.

"We ascertained that a man with the same name had checked in there."

Germany has been one of the focal points of the September 11 investigations after it was learned some of the suicide bombers had lived in the country.

Hamburg was a home for at least three of the suspected hijackers on board the planes that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York, damaged the Pentagon in Washington and downed a fourth plane in Pennsylvania.

Among them was Mohammed Atta, the suspected terror cell ringleader who is also thought to have been at the controls of the first plane to hit the World Trade Center.

Atta and a second suspect, Marwan Al-Shehhi, also studied in the city's Harburg Technical University, in Hamburg, German prosecutor's say.

German police have also been investigating the possibility that Hamburg was used to feed money through to the terror cell.

Since September 11 Germany has approved security measures to prevent terrorists using the country as a base for international operations.

The package included the upgrading of identification cards for non-nationals living in Germany.




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