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October 12, 2009

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Physicist 'admits to al-Qaida Web link'

A FRENCH physicist arrested last week while working at the world's largest atom smasher had told investigators that he corresponded over the Internet with a contact in North Africa's al-Qaida branch, a judicial official said yesterday.
The Internet exchange vaguely discussed plans for terror attacks, but nothing concrete was planned, the French judicial official said.
The 32-year-old Frenchman of Algerian origin was one of more than 7,000 scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. He and his brother were taken into custody last Thursday in the French city of Vienne.
The brother was released from custody on Saturday, the official said.
The physicist was still being held in the Paris area yesterday, with no charges filed against him.
United States monitors picked up the Internet exchange between the scientist and his contact in the militant group, known as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, the judicial official said.
At work, the physicist had no contact with anything that could be used for terrorism, the European Organization for Nuclear Research said.
The arrest has added to the woes of the US$10 billion particle collider.
The collider started up spectacularly in September 2008 with beams of particles flying in both directions on the first day of trying.
Nine days later, a massive electric failure related to a construction fault caused the entire machine to shut down.
It has been undergoing repairs almost ever since with the bill expected to total about 40 million Swiss francs (US$38.8 million) over the course of several years.


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