US citizen held in Spain for funding al Qaeda

Mohamed Omar Debhi is accused of sending more than EUR 60,000 to the AQIM.

Barcelona: A US citizen was arrested in this Spanish city for sending money to al Qaeda`s North African branch, police said.

Mohamed Omar Debhi, who is of Algerian descent, is accused of sending more than EUR 60,000 to the Al Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which is based in Algeria.

Debhi, 43, was arrested in the Esplugues de Llobregat district, where he is a resident. He also faces charges of possessing a false ID and defrauding Spanish social security services.

He is alleged to have sent money via a bank transaction to a fugitive Algerian militant named by police as Toufik Mizi.

Police have been searching for Mizi since 2006, who is suspected of belonging to a terrorist organisation. Police believe he fled Spain several years ago when the authorities smashed an al Qaeda fund-raising cell.

US officials did not immediately comment on Debhi`s arrest, and little is known of Debhi`s American connections - although it is believed he once lived near Houston in Texas.

AQIM emerged in early 2007 from an Algerian militant group, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which aligned itself with al Qaeda.

The outfit has waged a campaign of suicide bomb attacks and ambushes in Algeria, and in recent years has become more active in the Sahara.

The group frequently kidnaps Europeans travelling in the Sahara desert regions of Mali, Niger, Algeria and Mauritania.

The group is still holding five French citizens snatched from a uranium mine in Niger two weeks ago.

It has in the past killed several hostages, most recently Michel Germaneau, a 78-year-old French hostage being held in Mali.


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