PARIS – Police and security agents on Wednesday questioned five Pakistanis suspected of providing logistical support to Richard C. Reid before he boarded a Paris-Miami flight with explosives-laden shoes, judicial officials said.
The suspects were arrested Wednesday morning around Paris, the officials said on condition of anonymity.
They are suspected of possibly housing and feeding Reid, 28, during his stay in Paris, as well as lending him mobile phones and escorting him around the city.
The investigation is being headed by France's top anti-terrorism judge, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, whose methods often include rounding up and prosecuting those who play minor roles in a terrorist plot, partly as a means of getting to those who play bigger roles.
The British-born Reid has been in U.S. custody since Dec. 22 when he allegedly attempted to set-off explosives in his shoes during a trans-Atlantic flight from Paris to Miami. He was thwarted by flight crew and passengers and the jet was diverted to Boston.
He has pleaded innocent to nine charges that include attempting to murder the flight's 197 passengers and crew.
The indictment against Reid said he'd received training from the Al Qaeda terrorist network in Afghanistan.
Reid spent hours sending e-mails two days before boarding the Paris-Miami flight.
In December, police confiscated the hard drives from eight computers at the Happy Call cybercafe in a rough section of northern Paris Reid had visited, the manager of the establishment said at the time.
France has long experience combatting Muslim radicals who had sown terror here in the mid-1990s when Algeria's radical Armed Islamic Group waged a deadly bombing campaign in Paris. Scores of people were convicted.
Years of investigations have revealed a web of interconnected networks spreading through Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy and Spain.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, France has arrested dozens more in several cases under investigation, including a plan to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Paris.
Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person indicted in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks, is a French citizen of Moroccan descent.
In Spain on Wednesday, an Algerian man apprehended last weekend on suspicion of links to Al Qaeda was jailed on charges of membership in an armed group, a government official said on condition of anonymity.
Police were investigating whether Ahmed Brahim, 57, knew Mohamed Atta, the suspected ringleader in the Sept. 11 attacks or whether the suspect was connected to the deadly 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in East Africa.