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Spanish Police Arrest al-Qaida Suspects

Spanish police have arrested 11 people suspected of having links to Osama bin Laden's international terrorist network. One of their activities was to recruit potential terrorists.

During the course of a press conference at the end of summit with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Granada, Spain's Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar made the surprise announcement Tuesday that Spanish police had arrested several people believed to have links to Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaida's network.

Afterwards, in another press conference, Interior Minister Mariano Rajoy gave more details. He said that in an ongoing operation police had so far arrested in Madrid 10 of the leading members of the Spanish the mujahideen movement, which takes its name from the Afghan guerrillas who fought the Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Another suspect was subsequently arrested in Granada. In their residences police seized weapons and forged identity documents.

Mr. Rajoy said the majority of those arrested fought in Afghanistan, Bosnia or other fronts of the Islamic struggle. Most of them have Spanish citizenship although they come from various Arab countries such as Syria, Tunisia and Algeria. Their activities in Spain consisted in recruiting potential guerrillas and terrorists among young Moslem residents, sending the recruits to training camps, falsifying documents, and raising funds for the movement.

According to a statement subsequently issued by the Interior Minister, the group was led by Imad Eddin Barakat Yarbas, alias Abu Dahdah, who has both Syrian and Spanish citizenship. He was considered Bin Laden's lieutenant in Spain and maintained regular contacts with other radical Islamsits in Europe and other parts of the world.

Mr. Rajoy said the ring leader helped coordinate international logistic support for the Al-Qaida network; and for that purpose traveled not only to Afghanistan and Pakistan but also to Qatar, Yemen and the Philippines. Abu Dahdah was also in regular touch with the Spanish cell of the Algerian extremist group Daawa wal Jihad or Appeal and Struggle Salafist Group which was broken up by Spanish police shortly after the September 11 attacks.

In the ongoing operation, which is the fruit of two years investigation by a High Court Judge, at least 14 residences have been searched.