By James Bryce, Rund Abdelfatah and Mason Jones
THREE Al-Qaeda suspects have been accused of planning to blow up a Gibraltar shopping centre during the Olympics.
A Turkish national, who worked as a site manager on the Rock, and two Russians were charged this week under anti-terrorism laws.
Together they had enough explosives ‘to blow up a bus’.
A Madrid court heard that Turk Cengiz Yalcin, a paragliding enthusiast, had repeatedly asked his instructor about taking photographs of Gibraltar shopping centres from the air.
The trio were also recently spotted flying a motor-powered paraglider over Gibraltar, hinting they were planning an airborne attack.
Police reportedly found a video of Yalcin flying a remote-controlled aircraft dropping packages from the sky.
It is claimed that he had recently bought classes for his colleagues, Eldar Magomedov and Mohamed Ankari, both of Chechen origin, possibly at Lijar Sur flying school, in Algodonales.
When the Olive Press contacted the school, a woman first denied that it was a flying school, then put the phone down.
Other possible targets included the US naval base in Rota, near Cadiz.
The two Chechens were detained on a bus en route to France, with one using ‘enormous strength and miltary training’ to resist arrest.
Both are believed to have received military training at Al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, where they learnt about the use of explosives and poisons.
Described as ‘one of the biggest international counter-terrorism operations’ of recent years, Spain’s interior minister Jorge Fernandez said: “These are extremely dangerous people.”
Yalcin, described as a ‘facilitator for Al-Qaeda’, had been working for three years as a site manager at Gibraltar-based construction firm Profield Contractors.
A fellow worker, called Tom, told the Olive Press: “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 was very likeable.
“In fact he was so popular we recently gave him a computer for ‘his kids’.
“Now we wonder if he actually has any and if it was for something far more sinister.”
Yalcin was arrested at his home in La Linea, which he shared with his Moroccan wife. Police seized computers and manuals for flying light aircraft at the property.
A Gibraltar Government spokesman confirmed that border security had 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.