17 arrested in swoops on Madrid bomb suspects
8 June 2004
ROME – At least 17 suspected Islamic extremists have been arrested in Belgium and Italy as part of a major Europe-wide investigation following the Madrid train bombings, officials said Tuesday.
Fifteen were arrested in Belgium and two in Italy.
The Italian suspect was alleged to have played a leading role in the 11 March attacks.
Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera said the man was known as Mohammed the Egyptian, though his real name is Rabei Osman Ahmed.
Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu said the operation was aimed at a “dangerous group of terrorists close to al Qaeda” which had been planning more attacks.
The Spanish authorities are expected to seek the extradition of Ahmed, a Moroccan who is 33 and has been linked to Serhane ben Abdelmajid Farkhet, known as “The Tunisian”.
Farkhet was identified by Spanish judge Juan del Olmo as the ringleader of the Madrid bombings.
He died on 3 April when he and six other suspects blew themselves up in a suburban Madrid apartment rather than surrender to police who had surrounded the building.
Twenty people have been accused of involvement in the Madrid bombings, of whom 14 are under arrest. At least 20 others have been arrested and subsequently released.
Ahmed was held after a three-month inquiry involving at least 200 police.
There was no immediate police confirmation but the suspect was said to have been arrested in Milan along with a Palestinian.
The 15 arrested in three different houses in Belgium are Palestinian, Jordanian, Moroccan and Egyptian.
Unconfirmed reports also spoke of other arrests in France and Spain.
The arrests were carried out with the assistance of Spanish authorities, who are awaiting confirmation of the identities of the detainees and documentation to determine their purported ties to the attacks.
The Spanish government had previously said all the key figures involved in planning and carrying out the 11 March attacks are dead or in custody.
The Madrid attacks killed 192 people and left 1,500 injured.
Spanish authorities say they believe the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group carried out the attacks.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news