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Footballer jailed for plotting NATO base attack

Last updated on: September 30, 2003 22:54 IST

A former professional football player who played for German Bundesliga team Fortuna Duesseldorf in the 1980s was on Tuesday sentenced to a 10-year prison term by a Belgian court for plotting with Al Qaeda to attack a NATO base in that country.

Nizar Trabelsi, who was born in Tunisia, was planning to detonate a car bomb at the Kleine Brogel air base, CNN said.

The trial went on for four months.

Nizar TrabelsiThe court sentenced two other North Africa-born militants of being accomplices in the assassination of Afghan rebel commander Ahmed Shah Masood.

A total of 18 Islamic militants were convicted of a range of offences in Belgium's biggest terrorism trial, which began in May. Five suspects were acquitted.

Prosecutors, said the CNN, claimed that Trabelsi, 33, met Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden several times in Afghanistan before accepting the suicide mission.

He was arrested in Brussels soon after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

His arrest led to the discovery of the raw materials for a huge bomb in the back of a Brussels restaurant.

Trabelsi's lawyer, Didier de Quevy, told a new agency he would appeal against the verdict.