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Surveillance leads to arrests of three suspects.

Los Angeles Times

Three men suspected of preparing to mount a terrorist attack were arrested in Norway and Germany on Thursday in what authorities said was an al-Qaida plot with strands in the United States and Britain.

After a lengthy period of surveillance, the men were taken into custody by police, who feared information about the investigation might surface in the media.

Two of the suspects were arrested in Norway and one in Germany. Their names were not released, but police in Oslo described all three as legal residents of Norway.

"We believe this group has had links to people abroad who can be linked to al-Qaida, and to people who are involved in investigations in other countries," including Britain and the U.S., Janne Kristiansen, the head of Norway's Police Security Service, said.

She declined to provide details about the alleged plot or its intended target because the investigation was ongoing. But police said the public had never been in imminent danger.

News reports said they were preparing an assault with bombs made from peroxide, similar to a disrupted plan last year to attack the subway system in New York.

Two U.S. citizens, originally from Afghanistan, have pleaded guilty in connection with that plot, which the U.S. says was masterminded by Saleh al-Somali, an al-Qaida leader who was killed in an airstrike in Pakistan last December. Somali was in charge of al-Qaida attacks worldwide.

An indictment unsealed in New York on Wednesday linked the thwarted attack on the subway with a similar plot directed at northern England.

The suspects included a 39-year-old man of Uighur descent, who had arrived in Norway as a refugee in the late 1990s and obtained citizenship in 2007, and an Uzbek, 31, who had been granted permanent residency. Both were arrested in Oslo.

The third suspect, described as a 37-year-old Iraqi Kurdish man, was arrested in Germany in the Frankfurt area, authorities said. He too held a permanent residency permit in Norway.

The Scandinavian country was singled out in 2003 as an al-Qaida target by the terrorist network's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri. Exactly why is unclear.

Some say it's because of the country's involvement in the Oslo accords between Israel and the Palestinians, which extremists vilified; others say Norway's involvement in the war in Afghanistan could be a factor.