Middle East

World Cup bomb plot detailed by al-Qaeda suspect

Abdullah Azam Saleh al-Qahtani
Image caption Mr Qahtani was arrested on 3 May after a note about the plot was found

An alleged al-Qaeda militant detained in Iraq has given details about a plan he had to attack the World Cup in South Africa next month.

The Saudi man, Abdullah Azam Saleh al-Qahtani, told reporters he had suggested an attack on the Dutch and Danish teams in revenge for cartoons drawn of the Prophet Muhammad.

But he said senior al-Qaeda leaders had not yet approved the plan.

On Monday Iraqi police claimed to have prevented an attack on the World Cup.

The claims prompted phone calls from South African police, trying to find out what was going on.

'Target fans'

Mr Qahtani was arrested after Iraqi forces found a note detailing the plan in a hideout used by two senior al-Qaeda figures, killed in April.

"We discussed the possibility of taking revenge for the insults of the prophet by attacking Denmark and Holland," Mr Qahtani told the Associated Press.

"If we were not able to reach the teams, then we would target the fans."

The plan would have included car bombs and gun attacks.

The plan had not been approved, but had been awaiting the green light from al-Qaeda's number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mr Qahtani said.

"It was only an idea to blow up the World Cup," he said.

"It was relayed through other men, but I didn't get a reply."

Details discovered

It is not clear if al-Qaeda in Iraq has the resources to carry out a complicated attack that far away from their home base.

A note detailing the plan and Mr Qahtani's name, was discovered in a joint US and Iraqi operation in which top al-Qaeda in Iraq operatives Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi were killed.

Mr Qahtani was arrested by the Iraqi authorities on 3 May.

In 2006 a Danish newspaper published 12 cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, including one that showed a bomb in his turban.

In the Netherlands, anti-Islamic politicians have called the Koran a "fascist book".

Fifa has said it will not comment on any specific or potential threats to the World Cup.

South African police spokesman Vish Naidoo said the South African police had only heard about the plan through the media and had not received any information from the Iraqi authorities.

Mr Qahtani arrived in Iraq from Saudi Arabia in 2004 after the US invasion. He was arrested in 2007 and held for two years in Camp Bucca, AP reported.