S. Asians convicted in Spain over planned metro attack

15th December 2009, Comments 0 comments

Eleven men of South Asian origin received jail terms of between eight and 14 years for intending to carry out an attack in the Barcelona metro.

Madrid – Spain's anti-terrorism court on Monday convicted 11 men of South Asian origin, most of them Pakistanis, in connection with a plot to stage suicide attacks in the Barcelona metro in 2008.

The men received jail terms of between eight and 14 years, according to a copy of the ruling.

They intended to "carry out a violent attack using explosives against the Barcelona metro, which could have caused many casualties", the court said.

"The indiscriminate aim is evidence of the terrorist nature of the attacks."

Shaib Iqbal and Qadeer Malik, both born in Pakistan, received the stiffest terms of 14 years and six months for "belonging to a terrorist group" and for "weapons possession".

Maroof Ahmed Mirza, also of Pakistani origin and who the court said was "the leader of the group", was jailed for 10 and a half years for "belonging to a terrorist group", while the other eight each received terms of eight and a half years on the same charge.

Ten of the men were arrested in the northeastern city of Barcelona 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. He was a member of the suspected Islamist cell who then became a protected witness.

The court said the cell was inspired by Baitullah Mehsud, leader of a Pakistani Taliban group linked to Al-Qaeda, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.

It cited a video interview available on the internet in which the spokesman for the Tehrik-e-Taliban claimed it had planned the Barcelona attacks to protest the presence of Spanish troops in Afghanistan.

"The connection they had with Baitullah Mehsud meant that others, members of the same organisation, were sent to Barcelona from different countries to take part in the action, including with suicide bombers if needed," it said.

Ten of those convicted Monday are of Pakistani origin while one, Roshan Jamal Khan, was born in Mumbai, India.

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 such attack.

The 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 extremist attacks in Barcelona, but convicted three of them of collaborating with terrorists and two of falsifying documents.

AFP / Expatica

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