Wed, 25 Dec 2002

MM Highlight: MAIL HIGHLIGHT

How Did He Get In And Out?

By Eddie Chua

Ahmed Zaoui
HOW did an internationally known terrorist suspect enter and leave Malaysia without being stopped at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) two weeks ago?
Malaysian authorities are stumped and are anxious to find out how Ahmed Zaoui had entered the country without being detected.
According to sources, the authorities are also keen to know how long Ahmed had stayed in Malaysia.
“They are finding out if he was on transit, and where he went to upon arrival at the KLIA from South Africa,” said a source.
The suspect, from Algeria, is being held in New Zealand after surrendering on arrival at the Auckland airport where he sought political asylum.
He is being detained at New Zealand’s Paremoremo high security prison.
Sources said that Ahmed, a top ranking member of a militant group allegedly responsible for several atrocities and terrorist activities in Algeria and Europe, had destroyed his South African travel documents during the flight from Kuala Lumpur to New Zealand.
A source said that under international conventions, which New Zealand recognises, anyone who is party to terrorist acts, including association with terrorist groups, or poses a risk to national security, will not be taken in as a refugee.
Although New Zealand cannot extradite people to their home country if they face the death penalty there, they can expel them to a third country.
“New Zealand is contemplating sending Ahmed back to Malaysia, his last port of call,” said the source.
The Algerian Government had tried Ahmed in absentia for terrorism and sentenced him to death in the early 1990’s for supplying weapons from Europe to guerillas in the northern African nation.
He managed to flee Algeria and lived in exile in Europe after the trial.
Last year, Ahmed was also linked to al-Qaeda’s terrorist activities in South-east Asia through his associates but he denied it.
Ahmed was a democratically-elected member of the Algerian Islamic Front for Salvation (FIS) in December 1991 but the new government was overthrown in a military coup in January 1992.
He was also allegedly associated with the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), which had subsequently launched a bitter civil war to restore democracy in Algeria.
GIA has been blamed for terrorist acts, including the 1997 Paris metro bombing that killed eight people.
Ahmed has denied his involvement with the group.
While living in France, he also sought asylum in Switzerland but was only given temporary refugee status until he and his family were deported to Burkina Faso in West Africa.
Ahmed reportedly feared for his safety there and headed for Malaysia, and then to New Zealand.