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Bosnia suspects handed to U.S.

There were protests outside the jail where the men were being held
There were protests outside the jail where the men were being held  

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- Bosnia has turned over to U.S. military authorities six Algerians accused of plotting an attack on the American embassy in Bosnia.

They could soon be transferred to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, sources have told CNN.

The handover of the suspected terrorists came despite a ruling by Bosnia's highest court that they be freed and amid demonstrations by Bosnian Muslims, The Associated Press reported.

The men, who were rounded up after the September 11 terrorist attacks, are now in the custody of U.S. forces, Naval Cmdr. Rex Totty, a spokesman for the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany, told AP.

Bosnia's deputy foreign minister Ivica Misic, head of the country's anti-terrorism group, told CNN the men were handed over to U.S. authorities at 3.30 a.m local time (0230 GMT) on Friday.

It was not immediately clear where the men were or if they had left the country.

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The handover came after an all-night standoff outside the jail in Sarajevo where the men had been held since October.

Hours after the court's late night order, crowds formed outside the holding facility. Some 300 family members, friends and other supporters of the six men expressed alarm about rumours that they were to be extradited out of the country.

Police using batons dispersed the crowd at about 5 a.m. and the men were driven away.

The suspects, including at least one man with links to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, had spent the last three months in jail after Washington said it had intelligence, such as intercepted telephone conversations, linking the men to a threatened attack.

The suspects claimed to have Bosnian citizenship, but Bosnian officials stripped them of their Bosnia passports, saying the documents were illegally obtained. Algeria said it did not want the six returned.

Bosnian officials said they lacked evidence for a trial because the United States would not reveal the intelligence it gathered since doing so would reveal how it got the information.

Bosnian officials had that said if the six were wanted on U.S. warrants, they could be turned over to U.S. officials.

Guantanamo, Cuba
U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay: The suspects could be flying in soon  

The U.S. Embassy earlier refused to say whether warrants have been issued, but a senior U.S. source said the matter of warrants was a "formality."

However, attorneys for the men said on Thursday that they had obtained an order from a Bosnian human rights agency forbidding the suspects' extradition without further legal proceedings.

One of the men, identified as Bensayah Belkacem, was believed to be the central player in the plot, sources told CNN.

Belkacem worked for an Islamic charity, had a fake Yemeni passport, and was known to have called a bin Laden operative in Italy on a number of occasions, the source said.

The other five were identified as Mustapha Adir, Sabir Lahmar, Mohammed Nehle, Lakdar Bumedien, and Bubdeolah Hadz.


• Bin Laden suspect held in Bosnia
October 26, 2001

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