Belgian police Thursday arrested a woman who called a “living legend Al Qaeda,” as part of an operation to thwart a terrorist attack being planned to coincide with an EU summit in Brussels.
Police seized 14 people, one of which was planning to carry out a suicide attack in Belgium, the source said. They had contacts at the highest levels of Al Qaeda.
The police source said officers “had only 24 hours to act.”
The leaders of the European Union of 27 member states meet in Brussels on Thursday and Friday. It is not clear that heads of state and government were the target of the proposed attack.
The federal prosecutor from the office in Belgium one of the suspects identified as El-Malika Aroud, the widow of one of the men who murdered a key opponent of the Taliban in Afghanistan two days before the Sept. 11, 2001.
El-Aroud her late husband was one of two men who killed Ahmed Shah Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance, in a suicide mission ordered by Osama Bin Laden.
Belgian police to prevent El-Aroud, whom police called a source of “al-Qaeda living legend,” moving to Afghanistan to play a role in the fight against coalition forces there. She is thought to be a recruiter for the anti-Western network, rather than a fighter.
El-Aroud described the “love” that she and her late husband felt by Osama bin Laden in a 2006 interview with CNN.
“Most Muslims love Osama. It was he who helped the oppressed. It was he who stood up against the biggest enemy in the world, the United States. We love him for that,” said the source.
The look in said, “It’s the pinnacle in Islam to be the widow of a martyr. For a woman is extraordinary.”
“Most of the detainees” had Belgian passports Thursday, police said the source. All 14 are of Moroccan descent.
Three of the suspects had traveled to Afghanistan and the border region of Pakistan to take part in fighting or training camps, and were in contact with an unnamed suspect who had direct links to important figures of al Qaeda, he said the police.
Two of the three returned to Belgium several months ago and began surveillance operations, and the third returned to Belgium a week ago, police said. Intelligence showed that the third person is willing to carry out a suicide attack, police said.
The information showed that the suspect was to carry out the attack had received the green light to run the operation, police said. The researchers found that the suspect had said goodbye to his family “because he wanted to go to paradise with a clear conscience,” said the police.
The authorities also found a video for the family of the suspect, the police said was probably a farewell tape. Could not find explosives, police said in a statement.
The 14 suspects were arrested after police carried out 16 search warrants in Brussels and one in the western Belgian city of Liege. During the raids, police seized computers and documents, as well as 14 people, including three who traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan and 11 other suspects of having given logistical and material support.
Police said their investigation has been carried out intensively since late 2007.