A second Algerian man has been arrested in Washington state, and authorities are looking into a possible connection with an attempt last month to smuggle explosives into the country from Canada.
Abdel Hakim Tizegha, 29, was charged Monday with reentering the United States without permission and with eluding examination by Immigration and Naturalization Service officials when he entered the country in November at Blaine, about 100 miles north of Seattle. He was arrested Dec. 24.
If convicted, he would face a maximum 2 1/2 years in prison.
No link was made in court with the Dec. 14 arrest of Ahmed Ressam, who faces five federal counts in connection with bomb-making materials found in his rental car as he entered the country by ferry from Canada.
Law enforcement officials in Washington, D.C., confirmed they are looking for a connection. Assistant U.S. Atty. Alexander Hamilton declined to comment after Monday's hearing before U.S. Magistrate David E. Wilson.
Defense attorney Ralph Hurvitz said he had just gotten the case and had not yet talked to federal prosecutors.
Tizegha faces a detention hearing on Wednesday. At a subsequent hearing Jan. 14, the government must either indict Tizegha or show cause why he should remain in custody.
Tizegha, who was denied political asylum in 1997, was arrested Dec. 24 in Bellevue. His roommate told the FBI he had sneaked across the U.S.-Canadian border on foot in late November and then caught a bus to Seattle from Bellingham, according to court documents.
Charging Tizegha with INS violations would allow authorities to keep him in custody as they investigate whether he had any role in a potential terrorist bombing plot or a connection to Ressam, said law-enforcement officials in Washington, D.C., speaking on condition of anonymity.
They said Tizegha was in INS custody before federal agents fanned out around the country last week to question people who were possibly linked to Ressam. As a result of that effort, about 15 people--mostly Algerians--were either charged with criminal violations or held in civil detention.
Ressam, 32, was arrested as he entered the country at Port Angeles. He was charged with trying to bring powerful explosives and other bomb-making materials into the United States in his rental car.
On Thursday, another Algerian man, Abdel Ghani, was arrested in New York City as an alleged accomplice to Ressam. Ghani is accused of having traveled to Seattle to meet with Ressam and of planning to help him raise money.
Last week, federal prosecutors said an Algerian man and a Canadian woman caught crossing the U.S. border in Vermont five days after Ressam's arrest were both linked to an Islamic militant group in Algeria.
According to court documents, Tizegha first entered the country in 1993 as a stowaway aboard a ship. He stayed in Boston, where he applied for political asylum. The request was denied in April 1997, and an appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals was denied in June.
He was given 30 days to leave the country but disappeared instead.
His Bellevue roommate--who was not identified in court documents--told FBI agents on Dec. 30 that he had known Tizegha for about 14 months, since Tizegha moved to Seattle in the winter of 1998.
In August of this year, Tizegha went to Vancouver, British Columbia, and applied for refugee status there--a request that apparently is still pending.
On Nov. 23, the roommate said, he wired Tizegha $40, and Tizegha reentered the United States about a week later. The roommate said he burned Tizegha's bus ticket from Bellingham at Tizegha's request.