Romania has deported five students accused of having ties to al-Qaida and trying to recruit members of the country’s Muslim community, an intelligence official said Thursday.
The five were placed under surveillance in the capital and the northeast city of Iasi and later deported and banned from returning for the next 15 years, intelligence service spokesman Marius Bercaru said. He would only say the deportations took place this year, and he declined to say where the five students were sent.
“The operation aimed to stop this radical Islamic group in Romania and remove these people from the national territory,” he told The Associated Press.
The five suspects were trying to recruit other members in Bucharest and Iasi, Bercaru said.
The newspaper Jurnalul National identified the group leader as Musaab Ahmed Mohamed Mujalli, a Saudi citizen. Other members were Khaldoon Walid Monir Nabhan, an Omani citizen; Sudanese national Aymen Ahmed Fouad Jadkareem; and Asad Abrar Qureshi, a Pakistani. All were students in the city of Iasi, which has a large student population.
Bercaru confirmed the details of the newspaper report to The Associated Press.
Paper: Goal was 'to brainwash Muslims'
The paper said the group began operating in Iasi and then in Bucharest. Their goal, the report said, was “to brainwash Muslims, indoctrinating them in the spirit of fundamental extremism.”
Romania has a Muslim population of about 140,000, of which 66,000 are Romanian citizens. The rest are foreigners residing in the country.
The paper reported that Mujalli, the group leader, worked from an al-Qaida textbook outlining operational preparations and counterintelligence.
“When (the group) met they made propaganda for terrorist acts committed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya or Bosnia-Herzegovina with the aim of supporting the radical al-Qaida ideology and of approving suicide terrorist attacks,” the report said.
Group members used the Internet to communicate, and Mujalli had links with Islamic structures outside Romania, including receiving funding from the Middle East, the paper said.
Romania has been a strong U.S. ally since the Sept. 11 attacks and currently has 860 troops in Iraq and 700 in Afghanistan.