Ninth Suspect Under Investigation in France

A key suspect in a plot to attack the U.S. Embassy in France was placed under investigation on Wednesday for his alleged ties to a terrorism network in Europe that has been linked to Osama bin Laden.

Kamel Daoudi, a 27-year-old French-Algerian who was extradited from Britain last week, was the ninth person in France to be placed under formal investigation -- a step short of being charged -- in connection with the plot.

Daoudi, a computer expert, and another French-Algerian, Djamel Beghal, have been portrayed by police as key figures in a plot to strike the U.S. Embassy and other American targets in France.

Beghal was placed under investigation Monday after being extradited from the United Arab Emirates, where he had been jailed since July 28.

Both men spent time in military training camps in Afghanistan, with Daoudi returning to France after a stay there that ended this summer, judicial sources said. The sources spoke on condition they not be identified by name.

Anti-terrorism Judge Jean-Francois Ricard placed Daoudi under investigation for "using false administration documents" and "criminal association in relation with a terrorist enterprise," the judicial sources said.

French police had hoped to arrest Daoudi during a Sept. 21 roundup of seven other suspects in the Essonne region south of Paris. However, he escaped to Britain, where he was detained four days later. The seven others have since been placed under investigation.

Beghal portrayed himself as a direct link to bin Laden's al-Qaida network while under interrogation in Dubai. Bin Laden is the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

Beghal had told authorities in Dubai of his recruitment by bin Laden's organization for a suicide bombing against the U.S. Embassy in Paris, then denied it.

On Monday, he told French anti-terrorism judges he was never ordered by bin Laden or his aides to commit any attack, in France or elsewhere, his lawyer, Fabrice Dubest, said.

The French newspaper Le Monde reported on Wednesday that Beghal had told Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere that the confession was made under physical duress.

Beghal complained that during questioning in Dubai, which took place after his July 28 arrest there and again in late September, he was beaten in the abdomen and blindfolded, Le Monde reported, without citing its sources. The paper said he told the judge that he suffered "physical and emotional pressure."

His lawyer here requested a medical and psychological exam.

Despite Monday's statement, French judicial officials still take seriously Beghal's earlier testimony, in which he described a meeting at bin Laden's home in Afghanistan with Abu Zubaydah, a senior aide.

Beghal's testimony in Dubai led to the arrests of 12 other suspects, in the Netherlands, Spain and Belgium.

Among the suspects is Nizar Trabelsi, a Tunisian arrested Sept. 13 in Belgium -- tapped to be the man who would blow himself up inside the embassy, according to the testimony.

Daoudi told investigators here that he knew some of the nearly two dozen people arrested, the judicial sources said.

France opened an investigation into the plot on U.S. interests here on Sept. 10 -- a day before the U.S. attacks.