International hunt for 'court bombing' gang
20 October 2004, MADRID – The hunt for the Islamic extremists believed to have been plotting a bomb attack on Spain's highest criminal court spread to Switzerland, the Netherlands and Australia Wednesday.
20 October 2004
MADRID – The hunt for the Islamic extremists believed to have been plotting a bomb attack on Spain's highest criminal court spread to Switzerland, the Netherlands and Australia Wednesday.
The suspected head of the group was being held in Switzerland pending extradition proceedings, a Swiss official said.
Meanwhile, police in Holland and Australia said Wednesday they were investigating possible links to the same group.
In Geneva, Swiss Justice department spokesman Folco Galli told the Swiss news agency ATS that the suspect was being detained in Zurich, but Swiss authorities were still waiting for an official extradition request from Spain.
The Spanish interior minister Jose Antonio Alonso said earlier police had arrested eight suspected Islamic extremists who were believed to be preparing an attack on the Spain's highest criminal court.
Sources close to the Spanish investigation had said the alleged leader of the group had been in police custody in Switzerland "for some time" after being arrested at the request of the Spanish authorities.
Spanish media named the man as Mohamed Achrat, a 30-year-old Algerian national believed to be a member of the Islamic Armed Group (GIA).
On Tuesday Spanish officials said police had arrested eight suspected Islamic extremists thought to have been plotting a bomb attack on the National Court, Spain's highest criminal court.
In Holland, Vincent van Steen, spokesman for the Dutch AIVD security service, said: "Among those arrested there is a man who had already been arrested in April in the Netherlands, suspected of falsifying passports for a terrorist network."
Van Steen said a second suspect held a Dutch passport.
The Dutch spokesman said that the security services were also investigating funds which had been transferred to the Netherlands, Belgium and Australia.
"We are working in collaboration with the Spanish services," he said, adding that Spain had to date not made a formal request for judicial cooperation.
In Australia, Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty said Spanish police investigating the alleged plot had supplied their Australian counterparts with the name of a suspect possibly connected to it.
"We're investigating the name that was provided to us by Spanish authorities and trying to identify whether that person is in fact an Australian or a person who has been in Australia," he told reporters.
Keelty refused to reveal the name and would not comment on a report in Sydney's Daily Telegraph that counter-terrorist police were poised to swoop on a Sydney man linked to the extremist group.
He said the information from Spain "was as good as (it) can possibly be".
"Obviously when you get a name, you know, when you're talking about running it over international databases you can get different spellings, different phonetics, so we're in the process of trying to identify, properly identify the person and properly identify whether the person has been in Australia or is currently still here," he said.
Spanish police arrested eight people late Monday and early Tuesday in five cities, including seven suspects the interior ministry described as "radical and violent" Moroccans and Algerians.
The ministry said the suspects were believed to have "been in contact with individuals in other European countries, in Australia and the United States".
It is not the first alleged link between Islamic radicals in Spain and Australia.
Spanish court documents tendered last year said an alleged al-Qaeda leader in Spain - Abu Dahdah, also known as Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas - was in constant contact with two Australian Muslim leaders.
Dahdah was arrested in November 2001 because of his association with Mohammed Atta, one of the pilots involved in the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States, and with Mohammed Atef, believed to be the mastermind behind the attacks.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news