Friday, October 9, 2009

Nuclear Physicist, CERN Lab, Arrested for al-Qaeda Links

The French have arrested an unnamed nuclear physicist who works for the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, located in Geneva, Switzerland. He is believed to be have ties with al-Qaeda. See update 10-11-09  10-12-09 below. Dr. Adlene Hicheur was arrested, along with his brother, Dr. Halim Hicheur, who may have been released.


The man, 32, and his 25-year-old brother were arrested and their computers seized.
He was a physicist who worked on data analysis "in the context of a contract with another institute" and "none of his research had a potential military application", it said in a statement.

Previously known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, AQIM waged a war with the Algerian authorities in a bid to install an Islamic state at the cost of tens of thousands of lives in the 1990s.

But since joining al-Qaeda it has spread its activities to neighbouring countries such as Mali, Niger and Mauritania.
Cern is famous for the development of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) pictured above:
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a gigantic scientific instrument near Geneva, where it spans the border between Switzerland and France about 100 m underground. It is a particle accelerator used by physicists to study the smallest known particles – the fundamental building blocks of all things. It will revolutionise our understanding, from the minuscule world deep within atoms to the vastness of the Universe.

Two beams of subatomic particles called 'hadrons' – either protons or lead ions – will travel in opposite directions inside the circular accelerator, gaining energy with every lap. Physicists will use the LHC to recreate the conditions just after the Big Bang, by colliding the two beams head-on at very high energy. Teams of physicists from around the world will analyse the particles created in the collisions using special detectors in a number of experiments dedicated to the LHC.
The LHC, lies deep feet beneath the ground under the border of France and Switzerland in a tunnel, and is scheduled to be operational in November 2009. It is sometimes dubbed "the greatest physics experiment in the world."

Beyond the LHC, CERN says it is one of the world's "largest and most respected centres for scientific research," and "its business is fundamental physics...." CERN stands for Conseil Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire or European Council for Nuclear Research." This site says that although CERN has "never been involved in research on nuclear power or nuclear weapons...."
CERN and the scientists and engineers working there have no interest in weapons research. They are trying to understand how the world works, not how to destroy it.
The French are characterizing this arrest as "a very high level" case. The men are being held in Paris and are accused of being in contact with members of "al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghred (AQIM)," an Algerian-based member of al-Qaeda. For information more on Cern, go here.

With the identification of these two men, I have a new post here.

Update 10-11-09:
The two arrested men are still unidentified. The CERN physcist exchanged correspondence "over the Internet" with a a branch of al-Qaeda in north Africa. Terror attacks were discussed, according to an unnamed French official.

The physcist's brother was arrested but was released yesterday.
US monitors picked up the exchange between the scientist and his contact in the militant group, known as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
Update: 10-12-09:
The scientists arrested from CERN for having al-Qaeda contacts are Dr. Adlene Hicheur and his brother Dr. Halim Hicheur. The brother may have been released - reports conflict.

The men are French Algerian. Detention is reportedly at a "high security prison near Paris."
...a judge, said they were being held under suspicion of "criminal activities related to a terrorist group". They can be held for four days before being formally charged.
Investigators described the older man as "very high level" and said that he had been in contact with individuals linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim) – the North African wing of the terrorist network – about potential targets in France.
Intelligence sources said Hicheur had expressed a "wish, a desire" to carry out a terrorist attack but had "not committed material preparatory acts".
The brothers apparently came to the attention of the secret services when agents monitored the internet as part of an inquiry into the recruitment of extremists to fight in Afghanistan. Several exchanges were recorded between the two men and suspected al-Qaeda contacts. 
Hicheur was employed by CERN at the Federal Polytechnic Institute in Lausanne.
A source at CERN added: "It's quite likely that he had access to the experimental zones rather than just the office and academic areas."

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