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Spain holds Jazeera reporter, Qaeda link suspected
( 2003-09-06 10:42) (Agencies)

Spain on Friday arrested a celebrated war correspondent from the Arab television network Al Jazeera in the southern city of Granada on suspicion of belonging to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

His wife, in an interview with Al Jazeera, denied the allegations.

Court sources in Madrid said Tayseer Alouni, a Syrian, was suspected of relaying secret messages to al Qaeda operatives in Europe, possibly including messages from bin Laden himself, and he was believed also to have delivered living expenses to them.

Court sources also said he was accused of belonging to the same cell as Imad Eddim Barakat Yarkas, also known as Abu Dahdah, who is being held in Spain on suspicion of playing a role in the September 11 attacks.

Alouni shot to fame in the Arab world covering the U.S.-led war on Afghanistan and then the Iraq war.

Al Jazeera, which said Alouni was a Spanish citizen, said police detained Alouni at his home in Granada, once the capital of Moorish Spain and a popular tourist destination because of the ancient palace and military city of Alhambra.

Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported on its Web site that Alouni was to become Al Jazeera's correspondent in Spain and that in the 1990s he worked in Granada on the Arab language service of Spanish state news agency EFE.

Alouni was arrested on the orders of Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon, best known for an unsuccessful bid to put former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet on trial. Garzon is also overseeing the Abu Dahdah case.

"Alouni had been arrested in Granada...in principle for connections with Islamic terrorist organizations," a police source told Reuters, but gave no further details.

"Police in civilian clothes came to our door with a warrant to search the house and to arrest Tayseer because he was a member of al Qaeda. I don't know where they took him, Madrid I assume," Alouni's wife, who was not named, told Al Jazeera in an interview.

She listed the allegations against him and said, "This is not true."

Jazeera was not offering any comment on the arrest beyond what it aired in news bulletins.

Alouni is renowned for covering the fall of Afghanistan's Taliban rulers for Al Jazeera, which made its name by airing statements by bin Laden and other al Qaeda members after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

He was one of a few international correspondents allowed to operate under the Taliban and his close ties to that now defunct Afghan government raised questions about his objectivity and Al Jazeera's coverage.

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