Spanish judge jails three Pakistanis in forgery probe

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A judge in Spain Friday remanded in custody three of seven people arrested in an operation against a gang suspected of forging passports for Al-Qaeda-linked groups, court sources said.

The seven -- six Pakistanis and a Nigerian -- were held in raids in Barcelona on Tuesday night.

Three others -- two Pakistanis and a Thai woman -- were held in Thailand as part of the same Operation Kampai.

The judge in Madrid's National Court, which handles terrorism cases, ordered Junaid Humayun and Atiqur Rehman, both Pakistanis, and Nigerian Babatunde Agunbiade held without bail on suspicion of "collaborating or belonging to a terrorist organisation," the sources said.

Another Pakistani, Jabran Asghar, was freed on 10,000 euros (13,000 dollars) bail, three others were released on condition they do not leave Spain and appear at a police station every two weeks, and one, Mohammad Saddique Khan Begum, was freed unconditionally.

The gang allegedly stole documents, mainly passports, in Spain which were sent to Thailand to be forged and then delivered to Al Qaeda-linked groups, in particular the Lashkar-e-Taiba that has been accused of plotting the attacks that killed at least 166 people in Mumbai in November 2008, Spanish authorities said on Wednesday.

Police seized forged passports, immigration documents, faked rubber stamps, computers, mobile phones, passport photos, British driving licences and sophisticated counterfeiting equipment in the swoop.

The interior ministry also said Friday that Spanish and Thai investigators have found new evidence of links to Sri Lanka's defeated Tamil Tiger rebels.

Spanish police experts "have travelled to Thailand and are working with Thailand's Department of Special Investigations to analyse the numerous documents seized from the cell," the interior ministry said Friday.

"An initial examination of photographs seized has turned up evidence of the membership of some members of the terrorist organisation the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam."

The LTTE "has perpetrated bloody attacks, many of them by suicides, such as that which killed the former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.

"Many of its members were based in Western countries, where they obtained financial assistance for the organisation through extortion and drug trafficking," it said.

The LTTE fought a violent 37-year campaign for an independent Tamil homeland in northern and eastern Sri Lanka before being crushed by government forces last year.

Thai police said on Thursday that the three arrested in Thailand were part of criminal networks tied to "many terrorist attacks".

These included the 2004 Madrid bombings, when blasts on packed commuter trains in a city suburb killed 191 people and wounded 1,841 others. However, Spanish authorities have not confirmed any such link to those arrested.

© 2010 AFP

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