An Algerian nuclear physicist working on the CERN project has been arrested by the French authorities on suspicion of having links to Al Qaeda. He and his brother have been under surveillance for around 18 months, according to the French authorities, after being identified as belonging to a group responsible for sending French radicals to fight in Afghanistan.
A source said French intelligence officers had intercepted messages in which the man had suggested targets in France.
"He had expressed a wish or a desire to commit terrorist actions, but had not materially prepared them," said the source.
The 32 year old man, who has not yet been named, had contacts within the Algerian terrorist organisation Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM). Previously known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, AQIM waged a war with the Algerian authorities in a bid to install an Islamic state at the cost of tens of thousands of lives in the 1990s.
The French Interior Minister, Brice Hortefeux, said that these arrests "indicate perhaps that we have avoided the worst possible scenario", however a CERN spokesman said the suspect had "never been in contact with any elements which could be used for terrorist purposes."
He was a physicist who worked on data analysis "in the context of a contract with another institute" and "none of his research had a potential military application."
Well at least we can rest assured, for the time being, that Al Qaeda aren't planning to create a black hole (thats a joke before any irate physicists write in; see my post Settling in for background), but the thought of those deranged bastards trying to sabotage a machine built for the most noble intention of peering further back in time than ever before fills me with both sadness and anger.
I'm also filled with wonderment that anyone so obviously clever as a nuclear physicist, working on a project designed to push our knowledge back further in time, would be interested in supporting an organisation whose sole purpose is to physically take us back in time.
Well done to the French authorities if this man is guilty, and, for all you conspiracy theorists out there... supposing it's actually a plot by Fermilab so they can try and take back the lead? Remember, it started here... Shhh!