A SUSPECTED Al-Qaeda member accused of plotting a terrorist attack which may have targeted Gibraltar has been described as ‘a very nice chap’ by those who knew him.
Cengiz Yalcin was arrested at his home in La Linea, which he shared with his Moroccan wife, while police seized computers, manuals for flying light aircraft and enough explosives ‘to blow up a bus’.
Two Chechen men, Ahmad Avar and Muhammad Adamov, are also in custody after being arrested on a bus en-route to France, following several weeks of police surveillance.
Yalcin, a Turkish national described as a ‘facilitator for Al-Qaeda’, is thought to have been targeting a Gibraltar shopping centre after asking to take pictures of it ‘at all costs’.
Spanish security sources said the Chechens had received motor-paragliding lessons near La Linea and may have received instruction before arriving in Spain.
The three men had recently been spotted using a motor-powered paraglider around Gibraltar, leading to speculation that they may have been plotting an airborne attack on the Rock’s military base.
Other possible targets thought to have been considered by the suspected terror cell include the Joint US-Spanish naval base in Rota, near Cadiz.
Yalcin worked as a site manager at Gibraltar-based construction firm Profield Contractors for more than three years and is understood to have previously been employed by a company with links to the Ministry of Defence.
An IT contractor who gave his name as Tom and who worked closely with Yalcin, said: “We last saw him about two weeks ago, I spoke to others who worked with him and none of us can believe it.
“He seemed a very nice chap, he told us he had just split up with his wife and he was so likeable we gave him a computer for ‘his kids’.”
Another worker who wished to remain anonymous, added: “I saw his photo flash up on the news and immediately recognised him as a site manager I have met on numerous occasions.”
All three are reported to have received training in military camps in Afghanistan, and are believed to be experts in explosives and poisons.
Spain’s Interior Minister, Jorge Fernandez Diaz, said: “These are extremely dangerous people. This is one of the biggest investigations which has been carried out up until now against the Al-Qaeda terrorist group at an international level.”
A Gibraltar Government spokesman claimed there was no specific intelligence to suggest Gibraltar was the intended target, despite reports claiming the SAS had been drafted in.
Border security has also been stepped up, with every vehicle entering Gibraltar being stopped for document checks, leading to long delays.
Royal Gibraltar Police are urging the public to remain vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour.