Mexico: Man Arrested Has Links to 9/11

Mexico said it has detained a man believed linked to the groups that carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.

The federal attorney general's office, in a bulletin issued late Tuesday, identified the man as Amer Haykel (search) and said he was a British citizen born in Beirut, Lebanon.

"According to U.S. authorities, he is linked to extremist groups believed to be involved with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York," the agency said.

It did not say if he faced any charges or if he was believed to be personally involved in any terrorist actions.

President Vicente Fox's (search) spokesman Ruben Aguilar said Wednesday the arrest showed that Mexican officials are capable of detecting people illegally in the country and of protecting the border.

Haykel was detained in Todos Los Santos in the municipality of La Paz near the tip of the Baja California (search) peninsula. It said he was located at a fire station after a U.S. government tip, but it didn't say what he was doing at the time of the arrest.

He was brought to Mexico City for immigration processing.

Officials have long expressed concerns that terrorists might use Mexico or Central America to stage an attack on the United States.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, there have been a series of arrests and reports — from Panama to the Mexico-U.S. border — indicating that terrorists might be in the region. But so far, there has been little hard evidence that anyone was linked to Al Qaeda (search) or other terrorist groups.

Last week, Pakistani Arif Ali Durrani, 55, was arrested in the beach resort of Rosarito, across the border from San Diego.

A former U.S. resident, Durrani was handed over to U.S. officials, who charged him with illegally exporting parts used in fighter jet engines. Durrani has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and faces a trial in August.

Durrani served five years in prison for selling missile parts to Iran in the 1980s.

In July, a South African woman was arrested in Texas after she swam across the Rio Grande from Mexico. The arrest of Farida Goolam Mahomed Ahmed, 49, led to speculation of terrorist activities at the border, but officials found no evidence of such a link.

She was convicted of illegal entry into the United States, making false statements to federal authorities, and misuse of an altered South African passport. Authorities deported her in March.

Central American officials have also reported several alleged terrorist sightings or concerns — including the theory that terrorists were recruiting from the region's violent gangs.

But so far, the U.S. government has backed only one report: An alleged top Al Qaeda operative, Adnan El Shukrijumah (search) of Saudi Arabia, spent 10 days in Panama in April 2001.