18 November 2003

Sydney terror suspect linked to al-Qaeda bombers

The deported French terrorist suspect Willie Brigitte has been linked to the most senior echelons of al-Qaeda. One of his associates counts Osama bin Laden and September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed as confidants, a French terrorism expert close the investigation told the Herald.

Pierre Conesa, a former terrorism adviser to the French Government, said yesterday that Brigitte, 35, had been targeted after his name featured on a list of people contacted by two men accused of plotting a synagogue bombing that killed 21 people in April 2002 in Tunisia. Those men, Christian Ganczarski and Karim Mehdi, were arrested in Paris in June this year, a month after Brigitte arrived in Sydney. Searches of the pair's phone records, and subsequent interrogations by Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere - the same man leading the Brigitte investigation - renewed interest in Brigitte, his contacts and training.

Brigitte is first believed to have featured in French intelligence reports in 1999, after he embraced radical Islamic beliefs.

'Perhaps he could be very important, or perhaps he is the second-hand logistics guy who was just offering a home for the bigger player,' said Mr Conesa, who recently left the public service after 16 years advising defence and presidential aides on terrorism.

What a good thing Inquisitor-General Ruddock deported this guy without questioning him and then cited provisions passed through parliament without amendment or objection as an example of powers the opposition had evilly denied the government.

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