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Belgian police arrest 'al Qaeda legend'

    * Story Highlights
    * Three suspects have alleged al Qaeda links, Belgian report says
    * One had been given the green light to carry out a terrorist act
    * Police detained 14 people with links to a Belgian branch of al Qaeda

(CNN) -- Belgian police Thursday arrested a woman they called an "al-Qaeda 
living legend" as part of an operation to thwart a terror attack being planned 
to coincide with an EU summit in Brussels, a Belgian police source told CNN.

Police seized 14 people, one of whom was planning to carry out a suicide attack 
in Belgium, the source said. They had contacts at the "highest levels of 
al-Qaeda," the source said.

The police source said officers "had only 24 hours to act."

The leaders of the European Union's 27 member states are meeting in Brussels 
Thursday and Friday. It is not clear that the heads of state and government 
themselves were the target of the planned attack.

The federal prosecutor's office in Belgium identified one of the suspects as 
Malika El-Aroud, the widow of one of the men who assassinated a key opponent of 
the Taliban in Afghanistan two days before September 11, 2001.

El-Aroud's late husband was one of two men who killed Ahmed Shah Massoud, a 
leader of the Northern Alliance, in a suicide mission ordered by Osama Bin 

Belgian police aimed to prevent El-Aroud, whom the police source called an 
"al-Qaeda living legend," from moving to Afghanistan to play a role in the 
fight against the coalition forces there, the source said.

She is thought to be a recruiter for the anti-Western network, rather than a 
fighter, the source said.

El-Aroud described the "love" she and her late husband felt for Osama bin Laden 
in a 2006 interview with CNN.

"Most Muslims love Osama. It was he who helped the oppressed. It was he who 
stood up against the biggest enemy in the world, the United States. We love him 
for that," she told CNN then.

Gazing into CNN's cameras she said, "It's the pinnacle in Islam to be the widow 
of a martyr. For a woman it's extraordinary."

"Most of those arrested" Thursday had Belgian passports, the police source 
said. All 14 are of Moroccan descent.

Three of the suspects had traveled to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region to 
participate in fighting or training camps, and were in contact with an unnamed 
suspect who had direct links to important al-Qaeda figures, police said.

Two of those three returned to Belgium several months ago and started 
surveillance operations, and the third returned to Belgium a week ago, police 
said. Intelligence showed that third person was ready to carry out a suicide 
attack, police said.

Information showed the suspect who was to carry out the attack had received the 
green light to execute the operation, police said. Investigators noted the 
suspect had said goodbye to his family "because he wanted to go to paradise 
with a clear conscience," police said.

Authorities also found a video meant for the suspect's family, which police 
said was probably a farewell tape.

The 14 suspects were arrested after police carried out 16 search warrants in 
Brussels and one in the western Belgian city of Liege. During those searches, 
police seized computer equipment and documents and the 14 people, including the 
three who traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan and 11 others suspected of 
having given them logistical and material support.

Police said their investigation has been under way intensively since the end of 

--CNN's Andrew Carey and Paula Newton contributed to this report.

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