Azeris arrest 6 in alleged U.S. plot

Jan. 2, 2002 at 3:55 PM
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BAKU, Azerbaijan, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Azerbaijan's National Security Ministry said Wednesday that it arrested six members of an Islamic group that was believed to be preparing an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baku, the capital of the oil-rich former Soviet republic.

The ministry, which did not specify any fomal charges in its brief announcement as reported by Azerbaijani TV, said the six included five locally born Azeris and one Ukrainian national. A seventh person, an Uzbek national, was still being sought.

The ministry said the group was also targeting other international organizations in Baku.

They were said to be members of a little-known Islamic militant group called Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which reportedly has followers across Central Asia, and also has links to the Islamic militants fighting the Russian army in Chechnya.

The group has issued leaflets in Baku attacking the American military campaign in Afghanistan and calling for the unification of all the countries of Central Asia, including Afghanistan as well as the former Soviet republics, into a single Islamic state under Islamic law.

Azerbaijan, fringing the Caspian Sea and bordered to the south by Iran, has become the commercial center of the booming oil and gas industry of the Caspian basin, as the main regional base for international energy corporations.

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