Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Nicaragua on Alert for al-Qaida Suspects

Associated Press Writer

MANAGUA, Nicaragua -- El Salvador and Nicaragua said Tuesday they were on the alert for two al-Qaida terror suspects, but U.S. and Interpol officials downplayed the reports.

Officials in El Salvador and Nicaragua said they were on the lookout for a Yemeni man known only as Altuwiti and Ahmed Salim Swedan, a 36-year-old Kenyan on the FBI's list of most-wanted terrorists.

But they said there was no evidence that the suspected al-Qaida figures were within their borders. Salvadoran Immigration Department spokesman Ramon Hernandez said there was no evidence they were even in Central America.

U.S. Homeland Security official Marc A. Raimondi said the agency "has no hard information at this time about the whereabouts of these individuals."

Angel Miguel Barquero, in charge of Interpol in San Salvador, said no new warnings had been issued recently on the two men.

Nicaragua's Interior Ministry, which is in charge of internal security, announced earlier Tuesday that it had alerted all border posts because the two suspected terrorists were "possibly" in Central America.

Nicaraguan Deputy Interior Minister Avil Ramirez said his country received the report from El Salvador, the only Latin American nation with troops in Iraq and which in the past has received al-Qaida-type threats.

Hernandaz said El Salvador issued a similar alert based on information from "international intelligence organizations, and since Monday, all immigration officials have been alerted and have their photos and their names to avoid that they enter the country."

He declined to name which organization had supplied the information.

The spokeswoman for Guatemala's immigration department, Lorena Rosales, said her agency had checked the report and said "it's a false alarm."

Swedan was indicted on Dec. 16, 1998, for alleged involvement in the 1998 bombings of U.S. Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. The U.S. State Department has offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his arrest.

There have been repeated rumors, but only a few glimmers of hard, public evidence of terrorist suspects passing through Central America.

In the only known confirmed case, U.S. and Panamanian officials said Saudi native and alleged top al-Qaida operative Adnan El Shukrijumah was in Panama for 10 days in April 2001, five months before the Sept. 11 attacks.
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