ST. PAUL (AP) -- Federal investigators want to know whether the Minnesota connections of three men with suspected ties to al-Qaida amount to a coincidence, or the workings of a terrorist cell.
Muslim and Arab community leaders say there are undercover agents in mosques and informants on the streets. Agents are reading financial records and tapping telephones, they say.
Thomas Heffelfinger, U.S. attorney for Minnesota, said talk of a structured al-Qaida presence is just speculation now, but law enforcement officials should be prepared to encounter a cell.
While the FBI and other law enforcement groups wouldn't officially comment, individual agents confirmed that the government is adding inspectors and high-tech equipment on the Canadian border, searching for militant Islamist pockets and checking for links among the suspects with Minnesota connections.
The three men are Zacarias Moussaoui, the only man charged in the Sept. 11 attacks; Ilyas Ali of St. Paul, accused in a drugs-for-weapons plot; and Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi, who once lived in Minneapolis, accused of directing a Detroit al-Qaida cell.
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