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Spanish Police Arrest 16 Suspected Terrorists - 2003-01-24


Spanish police have arrested 16 suspected members of two groups allegedly linked to the al-Qaida terrorist network. Police say the suspects have ties with Islamic militants recently arrested in France and Britain.

The arrests came in pre-dawn raids involving some 150 Spanish police officers. Spain's Interior Minister Angel Acebes says 12 homes were raided in northeastern Spain.

The minister says police seized timing and remote control devices for setting off bombs, lethal chemical products, manuals for carrying out chemical and biological warfare, false passports and identity cards, stolen credit cards, and computers.

Mr. Acebes underlined the fact that police found radio transmitting equipment he said was to be sent to Chechnya and Algeria.

Spanish officials say some of the suspects maintained contacts with activists arrested in France and Britain in recent days. And the interior minister revealed that four of the suspects in France and Britain had been in Spain recently, making contact with some of the suspects arrested Friday.

Police sources say that most of the suspects in Spain are Algerians linked to the radical Salafist group for Call and Combat, funded by al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. The sources say some of them had trained in al-Qaida camps and fought against Soviet forces in Afghanistan. They also say the two cells in Spain were not planning to carry out terrorist actions in this country, but provided logistical and communications support for groups in France and Britain.

The arrests were made at the request of Britain and France, and were ordered by a high court judge.

Since September 11, Spanish police have arrested more than 30 people suspected of links with al-Qaida. A dozen remain in prison while the others have been released on bail. The last suspected al-Qaida activist arrested in Spain was an Algerian man taken into custody on December 26 and accused of trying to recruit operatives from among North African immigrant workers.

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