Belgian police Thursday arrested a woman they called an “al-Qaeda living legend” as part of an operation to thwart a terror attack being planned to coincide with an EU summit in Brussels, a Belgian police source told CNN.
Police seized 14 people, one of whom was planning to carry out a suicide attack in Belgium, the source said. They had contacts at the “highest levels of al-Qaeda,” the source said.
The police source said officers “had only 24 hours to act.”
The leaders of the European Union’s 27 member states are meeting in Brussels Thursday and Friday. It is not clear that the heads of state and government themselves were the target of the planned attack.
The federal prosecutor’s office in Belgium identified one of the suspects as Malika El-Aroud, the widow of one of the men who assassinated a key opponent of the Taliban in Afghanistan two days before September 11, 2001.
Above: Malika El-Aroud is the widow of one of the men who killed Afghan anti-Taliban leader Ahmad Shah Massoud.
El-Aroud’s late husband was one of two men who killed Ahmed Shah Massoud, a leader of the Northern Alliance, in a suicide mission ordered by Osama Bin Laden.
Belgian police aimed to prevent El-Aroud, whom the police source called an “al-Qaeda living legend,” from moving to Afghanistan to play a role in the fight against the coalition forces there, the source said.
She is thought to be a recruiter for the anti-Western network, rather than a fighter, the source said.
El-Aroud described the “love” she and her late husband felt for Osama bin Laden in a 2006 interview with CNN.
“Most Muslims love Osama. It was he who helped the oppressed. It was he who stood up against the biggest enemy in the world, the United States. We love him for that,” she told CNN then.