Romania has deported five students accused of having ties to al-Qaida, a spokesman for the country's intelligence service said Thursday, adding that their alleged cell was trying to recruit and "brainwash" members of the country's Muslim community.
Marius Bercaru said 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. He declined to say where they were sent, only saying the deportations took place this year.
"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.
"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 some 860 troops in Iraq and 700 in Afghanistan, reports the AP.