M A I N   N E W S

2 Indians among 14 terror suspects held in Spain

London/Madrid, January 19
Two Indians and 12 Pakistanis have been arrested by the Spanish police, which claims to have smashed a suspected Islamic terrorist cell that was plotting an attack in the northeastern city of Barcelona. This was announced by Spain’s interior minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba at a news conference in Madrid.

Spain’s leading daily El Pais reported on its website that Spanish authorities have warned France, Portugal and Britain of the possibility of attacks on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf during his visit to Europe beginning tomorrow.

The Spanish interior minister, however, did not give the names of those arrested in the overnight raids in Barcelona and other details.

The Spanish police also recovered bomb-making equipment in the raids, the minister said. “During our searches, we found various materials which could be explosives or be used to make explosives,” Rubalcaba said. Four timing devices as well as computer equipment, which were still being examined, were also recovered.

He said the group could be characterised as “radical Islamist”, was “highly organised” and was preparing to carry out an attack in the northeastern Spanish city.

The operation, which saw five homes raided by the police, was carried out on the basis of information gathered by Spain’s domestic and foreign intelligence agencies.

The intelligence suggested “the possibility that a terrorist action was being prepared on Spanish soil, in Barcelona to be precise,” Rubalacaba said. The police then “detected an organised group suspected of gathering materials used to make explosives,” and decided immediately to swoop, he said. He added that it was “probable” that some of the 14 were innocent.

Private radio station Cadena Ser reported that the suspects were believed to have links to a financial network for certain branches of Al-Qaida. All arrests took place in the Raval neighbourhood of Barcelona, home to a large Muslim immigrant population, media reports said.

In May last year in Barcelona, authorities dismantled a network that was recruiting fighters and funding militant organisations in North Africa and Iraq. Thirteen Moroccans and two Algerians were arrested in that case. On March 11, 2004, simultaneous bombings on commuter trains in the Spanish capital Madrid killed 191 people.

El Pais, which reported on possibility of attacks on Musharraf, cited Spanish intelligence agency sources as saying that small groups composed principally of Pakistanis were preparing to carry out attacks “imminently”.

Musharraf begins a European tour tomorrow that will see him visit Brussels, France, Britain and the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. — PTI, AFP



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