Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Police have arrested 11 suspected Islamic militants in Spain's North African enclave of Ceuta

Pablo Mates:

Hundreds of police participated in the operation in the largely Muslim Principe Alfonso neighbourhood. They seized forged documents, a flak jacket and an air pistol as well as cash, computers and mobile phones from suspects' homes, officials said.

Those arrested included two brothers of Hamed Abderrahaman Ahmed, the so-called "Spanish Taliban" who spent two years in U.S. detention in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but was freed earlier this year after terrorism charges against him in Spain were overturned, court officials said.

"They had been under surveillance for some time, and, when we saw they were thinking about moving from fanatical talk to action we arrested them," Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said in Algeria, where he was on a visit.

On March 11, 2004, 191 people were killed in a Madrid bomb attack against commuter trains, which investigators believe was carried out by a group inspired by al Qaeda.

Motivation for the Madrid bombings in 2004 was believed to have been Spain's involvement in the Iraq war. The bombings triggered a surprise poll victory for the Socialist Party, and new Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq.

Local news agency Europa Press said the Ceuta suspects were linked to the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, blamed for bombings of Western and Jewish targets including a Spanish restaurant in Casablanca in 2003 which killed 26 people.

Police put hoods on at least one suspect when they took him away, one of the suspects' mothers told Spanish television.

"They've no right to do these things. They arrive suddenly, put a hood on my son and smash up the house," she told television, which did not provide her name.

The investigation into radical Islam in Ceuta which led to the raid began in March 2005, the Interior Ministry said. Those arrested were all men in their 20s and 30s.

One was a Moroccan citizen with a Spanish work permit and the others were Spanish, Rubalcaba said, adding that Moroccan intelligence helped provide information for the operation.

The newspaper El Pais said Spanish intelligence had discovered a 'declaration of war' against Spain posted on an al Qaeda-linked Web site earlier this year.

The posting called for the "liberation" of Spain's enclaves on the Moroccan coast of Ceuta and Melilla, which have been in Spanish hands for hundreds of years but have large Muslim populations, El Pais said.

Spain: Eleven Islamists Arrested


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