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5 of 72 DOCUMENTS Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company The New York Times April 25, 2003, Friday

, Late Edition - Final

SECTION: Section A; Page 15; Column 1; Foreign Desk LENGTH: 719 words HEADLINE: AFTEREFFECTS: TERROR; Saudis Withdraw Berlin Diplomat After Germans Cite Possible Militant Link BYLINE: By DESMOND BUTLER DATELINE: BERLIN, April 24 BODY: Saudi Arabia withdrew a diplomat from its embassy here last month after German officials raised questions with the Saudi government about contacts he may have had with a group of Islamic militants currently under investigation for terrorism, German and Saudi officials said. German police are examining whether Mohamed J. Fakihi, the director of the Islamic Affairs Department for the Saudi Embassy in Berlin, had ties to six men they detained last month, the officials said. German authorities described those arrests as pre-emptive, after they received information that the men might be planning attacks to coincide with the opening of the Iraq war. German prosecutors have charged that the six men belonged to an organization working to recruit Arab students in Germany for terrorist activities. Prosecutors stressed that Mr. Fakihi is not under investigation, and in any case he would enjoy diplomatic immunity. But the incident is likely to heighten concerns expressed by American officials that elements within the Saudi government have supported the aims of terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda, and may have helped funnel money to them. A spokesman for the Saudi Embassy here, who declined to be named, said that Mr. Fakihi had returned to Saudi Arabia after Germany demanded that he leave. Mr. Fakihi could not be reached through the embassy. German investigators made inquiries about Mr. Fakihi after they discovered his business card, in the fall of 2001, during a search of the Hamburg apartment of Mounir el-Motassadeq, a Moroccan student who was a close friend of Mohamed Atta, the leader of the hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks. Mr. Motassadeq was convicted in a German court in February on charges of involvement in the Sept. 11 plot. After months of silence, Saudi officials denied that Mr. Fakihi had ever met Mr. Motassadeq. But a German official familiar with the case said that the authorities turned their attention once again to Mr. Fakihi after investigators saw him visiting al-Nur mosque, in a working class district of Berlin, which was frequented by some of the six terrorism suspects. One of the men, Ihsan Garnoaui, a Tunisian, was arrested after police found in his apartment a faked Portuguese passport similar to others used by suspected terrorists, a list of chemicals used for explosives, a book on toxicology and a Glock pistol. Police said they suspected that Mr. Garnoaui spent time in Chechnya and in Qaeda camps in Afghanistan.

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