Eleven go on trial in Spain over planned metro attack

13th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

The men are accused of staging suicide attacks in the Barcelona metro in 2008.

Madrid – Eleven men of South Asian origin went on trial in Spain Thursday on terrorism charges linked to an alleged plot to stage suicide attacks in the Barcelona metro 2008.

Ten of those accused were arrested in Barcelona, northeastern Spain, in January 2008 in raids during which police also recovered bomb-making equipment. Another was detained five months later in the Netherlands.

The charges were based on the declarations of an informant who was a member of the suspected Islamist cell and is now a protected witness.

One of the alleged leaders of the cell, Mohammad Ayud Elahi, denied any involvement Thursday, noting that he had lived in Barcelona since 1974 where he has a family.

Another suspected member, Malik Qadeer, also denied the charges, saying he has "more respect for Spain than Pakistan" and is "one thousand percent against violent Islamists".

The main accused, Maroof Ahmed Mirza, refused to testify.

The cell is suspected of planning suicide bombings in the Barcelona metro, and had "acquired operational capability at a human level and was close to achieving full technical capability in making explosives," Judge Ismael Moreno said in his original indictment in 2008.

Nine of the accused are of Pakistani origin, and two are of Indian origin. All were charged with belonging to a terrorist group.

A Spanish terrorism expert said last year he had seen a video interview in which a Pakistani Taliban group linked to Al-Qaeda, Tehrik-e-taliban Pakistan, claimed it was behind the planned attacks in Barcelona.

Spanish authorities have stepped up operations against Islamist radicals since the 11 March 2004 Al-Qaeda-inspired train bombings in Madrid that killed 191 people and wounded 1,800 others in the country's worst terror attack.

Spain's anti-terrorism court in October 2007 convicted 21 people of involvement in the bombings.

Security forces have staged several operations in Barcelona, which has a large Pakistani community.

In May 2007, Spain's high court acquitted 11 Pakistanis of planning terrorist attacks in Barcelona, but convicted three of them of collaborating with terrorists and two of falsifying documents.

AFP / Expatica

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