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Government links Vermont, Washington border arrests

By Wilson Ring, Associated Press, 12/30/99

BURLINGTON, Vt. -- Federal prosecutors today linked a Canadian woman arrested at a remote Vermont border crossing with an Algerian man taken into custody at the border in Washington state.


COVERAGE: 12/30/99
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New England Cable News FBI alleges connection Vermont-Washington state connection in border bomb plot.
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A prosecutor said in court documents that Lucia Garofalo and Ahmed Ressam were in the same cell of "a violent Algerian terrorist organization" known as GIA.

Deputy U.S. Attorney David Kirby submitted the court documents to a magistrate today in advance of a hearing in which the federal government is seeking to continue holding Ms. Garofalo until trial.

Ressam is an Algerian who was charged with trying to smuggle explosives and timing devices into Washington from Canada on Dec. 14.

Ms. Garofalo, a Canadian, was arrested five days later at a Vermont border crossing with an Algerian man. She was linked before today to what prosecutors described as a terrorist group operating in Europe and Algeria.

Kirby said the information he used in his court filing came from a foreign government, which he did not identify.

The document says that Ms. Garofalo's husband is Yamin Rachek, an Algerian national who was expelled from Canada after presenting a false passport.

Rachek, who now lives in Italy, allegedly was arrested in London in 1996 using an altered Greek passport and also faces an outstanding arrest warrant in Germany for theft.

Ms. Garofalo has sought unsuccessfully to persuade Canada to allow Rachek back into the country. In 1997 she allegedly arranged with a man named Said Atmani to buy her an airline ticket to travel to Germany and to hired a lawyer for her husband, Kirby said in his court filing.

GIA is the French abbreviation for the Armed Islamic Group, the fundamentalist faction held responsible for some of the bloodiest attacks in Algeria's nearly eight-year civil war. It has also been blamed for bombings in France in 1995 and 1996.

"The foreign government reports that Atmani is a documents forger for the GIA, a violent Algerian terrorist organization," Kirby wrote. "The foreign government also reports that at one time Atmani and Ahmed Ressam, the man recently arrested in the Seattle area, were roommates."

Kirby said that government reported that in 1997 it monitored a conversation between GAI members who spoke of a man living at the time in Germany whose Italian wife lived in Canada.

"The foreign government reports that these two members of the GIA are in the same cell of that organization as Ahmed Ressam, the man recently arrested in the Seattle area," Kirby said in his court filing. The documents did not elaborate on how big the cell was.

Ms. Garofalo currently faces minor immigration charges. She and another man, Bouabide Chamchi, were arrested Dec. 19 at the remote border crossing at Beecher Falls.

Chamchi, an Algerian national, already has been ordered held without bail until his trail.

The arrests of Ms. Garofalo, 35, and Chamchi, 20, combined with the arrest a week earlier of Ressam have stirred fears of terrorist attacks.

Kirby made no direct links between Ms. Garofalo and Ressam other than their alleged membership in the same terrorist cell.


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