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America strikes notebook

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 29, 2001


EU unites to target terror groups

EU unites to target terror groups

PARIS -- The European Union expanded its list of terrorist organizations to include Irish, Basque, Greek and Middle Eastern extremist groups on Friday, a move that requires all member countries to freeze their assets and seek to arrest members.

In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, the 15-member bloc had already labeled several groups as terrorists linked to al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Now, after domestic political wrangling, it has added the Basque separatist group ETA; groups from both sides of the Northern Ireland conflict, like the Real IRA and the Loyalist Volunteer Force; and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, which the list refers to as Hamas' terrorist arm.

Political parties are not included. The Irish Republican Army is not on it, nor is Batasuna, the political wing of ETA. Nor is Hezbollah of Lebanon, though one of its leaders is on a list of people whose assets are to be frozen.

Suspect's mother says she declined visit

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- The mother of Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged in the Sept. 11 attacks, said Friday she refused the chance to visit her son because prosecutors insisted that an FBI agent be present.

Instead of seeing her son, Aicha el-Wafi and her lawyer, Francois Roux, met with prosecutors and defense attorneys for Moussaoui, who faces six conspiracy charges. Four of them could bring the death penalty.

Earlier Friday, el-Wafi said her son told her he was innocent.

"My son tells me he is not guilty," el-Wafi said on CBS's The Early Show. "He has told me he has proof that he did nothing and that at the appropriate time he will show that proof."

El-Wafi came to the Washington area to plead for her son and to attend his Jan. 2 arraignment in federal court in Alexandria, a Washington suburb.

Moussaoui, 33, has been indicted the attacks that killed about 3,000 people in New York City, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. He was in jail on other charges at the time of the attacks.

A federal judge on Thursday set a March 29 deadline for prosecutors to decide whether they will pursue the death penalty against Moussaoui.

Also . . .

SEPT. 11 FRAUD: A federal judge has ordered the seizure of the assets of a Georgia couple accused of insurance fraud by claiming the wife died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Cynthia S. Gavett, 40, and Charles Allen Gavett, 44, are accused of filing false death claims with insurers and charities to collect about $273,000.

ANTRHAX REMOVAL: Workers began a third attempt Friday to destroy residual anthrax spores in the heating and ventilation system of the Hart Senate Office Building.

Technicians pumped steam into the system to raise humidity, but at first, as in a past attempt, it remained below optimum levels, which were reached in a successful test Thursday.

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