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5 linked to extremist websites held

BERN, Switzerland -- Swiss authorities said yesterday they have detained five Islamic extremists suspected of using the Internet to show the killing of hostages, which reportedly included the beheading of an American, and to give bomb-making instructions.

It was unclear if any of the slayings took place in Iraq, where they have been blamed on the group led by Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Video recordings of those killings have been posted on various Islamic websites.

''The sites -- which were actively exploited by at least one of the arrested persons -- included numerous videos showing the putting to death of hostages and the mutilation of human beings," said a statement by the Federal Prosecutor's Office.

Peter Lehmann, spokesman for the office, declined to go into detail about the slayings, saying the locations of the killings had yet to be determined.

All the suspects were ''of the Islamic faith, with extremist leanings," the office said. It did not identify them, but said they came from Tunisia and Belgium and were legal Switzerland residents.

They are under investigation for incitement to crime and for supporting a terrorist organization, it said. The office cited the now-closed website, saying its forum published letters claiming responsibility for a suicide bomb attack in Pakistan last July.

According to Swiss media reports after the site was shut down, its postings included a video showing the beheading of American Paul M. Johnson Jr., who was killed in Saudi Arabia last June.

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