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PARIS (Reuters) - One of two suspected al Qaeda collaborators arrested in France this week was a physicist working at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland, CERN said on Friday.
The elder of two Algerian brothers arrested in Vienne in southeastern France on Thursday is suspected of having been in contact with people close to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), also known as Al Qaeda's north African wing.
"His work did not bring him into contact with anything that could be used for terrorism," CERN, a centre for research on particle physics, said of the arrested man in a statement.
CERN added that all its results were in the public domain and none of its research had potential for military application.
The Geneva-based centre has frequently been in the news since it built a particle collider under the French-Swiss border outside Geneva which aimed to recreate the conditions of the "Big Bang," the origin of the universe.
The arrested man had been working on an experiment in particle physics as a contractor since 2003, CERN said.
It described the experiment as exploring what happened after the Big Bang that allowed matter to survive. CERN said the experiment had attracted more than 300 physicists from research centres in 13 countries.
Le Figaro newspaper reported earlier that the man had been in contact with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and had suggested several French targets for militant attacks.
A judicial source confirmed that one of the brothers had been in contact with people close to the organisation but said there was no indication of a clearly established plot at this stage.
AQIM, al Qaeda's north African wing, has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at the French embassy in Mauritania that wounded three people in August.
(Reporting by Nicolas Bertin and Clement Dossin, additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, writing by Sophie Hardach; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Reuters