Bombmakers arrested while plotting with terrorist cell

22nd December 2004, Comments 0 comments

22 December 2004, BARCELONA- Police have arrested three Moroccans suspected of having international terrorist links after they attempted to obtain explosives, the interior ministry said.

22 December 2004

BARCELONA- Police have arrested three Moroccans suspected of having international terrorist links after they attempted to obtain explosives, the interior ministry said. 

A day after the government said it was stepping up security measures over the Christmas and New Year holidays, hundreds of police officers took part in the operation to nab the suspected Islamists, according to a statement from the ministry.

The suspects had "started negotiations to procure explosives," said the statement, which added that investigations had been carried out in collaboration with several foreign intelligence services.

They had "established contact with an intermediary in central Europe" said to be in a position to supply explosives, the statement added. 

It identified two men arrested at Sant Andreu de la Barca in the Catalan region of northeastern Spain as Majid Bakkali and Abdelkader Farhaoui.

A third suspect was arrested at Mollet del Valles in the same region.

Police detained three other people for questioning, but these were not suspected of having links with international terrorism, the statement said.

More than 120 suspected Islamic extremists have been arrested in Spain since the 11 March bombings of four suburban trains in Madrid, in which 191 people were killed and 1,900 injured.

The suspected mastermind of a terrorist cell recently dismantled by Spanish police was remanded in custody Tuesday for his alleged role in the 11 March atrocity, according to anti-terrorism judge Juan del Olmo.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said on Tuesday his government would put special security measures into effect over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

On Christmas Eve last year, police narrowly averted a Basque separatist plot to dynamite a train in a Madrid rail terminus as the platforms were crowded with hundreds of people traveling to rejoin their families.

The previous year also, police uncovered a bomb plot shortly before Christmas when police stopped an automobile carrying 40 kilogramms (88 pounds) of explosives. One police officer was killed in a shootout with the car's occupants.

These attempted attacks led the Spanish government initially to blame the Basque separatist organization ETA when four bombs went off on suburban trains in Madrid 11 March,  killing 191 people and injuring 1,900 others.

However, it quickly became apparent that those attacks were carried out by Islamic extremists linked to the Al-Qaeda.

Spanish and French authorities have recently arrested several key ETA figures and seized stocks of explosives.

In announcing stepped up security measures to parliament, Zapatero did not give any details beyond saying that the effort would be focused on strategic targets, transport and the security of citizens in the big cities.

ETA's bloody fight for independence from Spain -- a campaign not shared by most of the Basque population -- has caused the death of about 800 Spanish military and civilians, according to the interior ministry. Almost 200 ETA activists have also been killed, according to radical Basque sources.

Zapatero said it was not surprising that the government should step up security "in light of the events that our country has witnessed this year."
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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