- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 16, 2001

LONDON — Islamic terrorists based in Britain and controlled by Osama bin Laden planned a devastating attack on the European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France.
A six-strong terror cell funded by the Saudi fugitive planned to kill all 625 members of the European Parliament, and scores of officials, by releasing sarin gas into the parliament building.
The attack was scheduled to take place during the session of parliament from Feb. 11 to 14 this year and was to be the first in a series of assaults against prominent buildings across Europe.
Algerian terrorists based in London and funded directly by bin Laden worked with counterparts in Milan and Frankfurt.
The plot was foiled after German police smashed the Frankfurt operation in a series of raids. The six Britain-based men were arrested and charged with offenses under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
The charges were dropped just days after the men appeared in Horseferry Road magistrate's court, London. The Crown Prosecution Service said that the decision was made for security reasons.
Senior British officials have told the Sunday Telegraph that the decision to cease action was prompted by a request from the British intelligence agency, MI5.
It is believed that the intelligence agency had uncovered details of further atrocities and wanted to monitor the group.
Details of the plan were kept secret from members of the European Parliament. They were, however, sent an e-mail warning about lapsed security in the building.
Sarin gas is a chemical weapon, 26 times more deadly than cyanide.
Developed during World War II by the Nazis, it is odorless and almost impossible to detect.
Its potential for use in a large crowd was proved when Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese sect, killed 12 persons and affected 5,000 more using sarin gas on the Tokyo subway in March 1995.
A spokesman for the European Parliament said: "We take all threats to security seriously and are constantly monitoring the situation."
The disclosure that the European Parliament was a target will raise concerns about the activities of bin Laden's followers in Britain and Europe.
The Sunday Telegraph has learned that the Special Branch in London is also examining allegations that two mosques in London have raised funds for his terrorist organizations in the past few weeks.
One London mosque, where Afghans pray, has reportedly raised funds for the terrorist group al-Qaeda, run by bin Laden.
Officers last year closed a community center attached to a mosque in Birmingham after money was raised to help train British-born terrorists operating in Kashmir.
British activists, who have supported bin Laden's activities in the past, have also established a base in America. The Al Muhajiroun movement, members of which have called for a jihad, or permanent holy war, overseas, has set up in New York.
The movement's new U.S. members remain in close contact with followers in Britain, Pakistan and Lebanon.
It is not the first time that British fundamentalists have extended their operations to America.
Last year, the Sunday Telegraph revealed that a company called Sakina Security was training volunteers to handle explosives and guns at a base in the United States.
The company, which is under investigation by the FBI, has set up a bank account in London to raise funds for anti-Israeli forces among the Palestinians.
Security sources believe that as many as 5,000 young Muslims in Britain may support bin Laden.
Most show their solidarity by making regular financial contributions, but about one in five of these supporters is believed to have taken part in some form of active military service abroad.
Dozens have also taken part in secret military training in sessions in Britain, after which they were drafted into the military wing of the International Islamic Front founded by bin Laden in 1998.
A number of such British volunteers later died during active service for Islamic forces in the conflicts in Chechnya, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Afghanistan.
Key figures in 21 terrorist groups outlawed in March by Jack Straw, the then British home secretary, under the provisions of the new Prevention of Terrorism Act, have gone into hiding since they were banned.
The ban is supposed to prevent them from raising funds, recruiting or in any way supporting terrorist operations abroad. Sixteen of the banned groups are Islamic organizations led by bin Laden's al-Qaeda.

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