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Spain Arrests Suspected al-Qaida Financier - 2002-04-14

Spanish authorities have arrested an Algerian man suspected of being an important financier in Spain for the al-Qaida terrorist network of Osama bin Laden. The operation was carried out in collaboration with foreign police agencies, after seven months of investigation.

Spain's Interior Minister Mariano Rajoy announced the arrest in a Barcelona suburb of Ahmed Brahim. Mr. Rajoy described Mr. Brahim as a major figure in the al-Qaida network┬┤s financial operations and said his capture dealt a harsh blow to the terrorist organization's international financial system.

The arrest, which took place on Saturday, was the fruit of seven months of investigation and the collaboration of police from countries, including the United States, France, and Germany. Seized in the operation, which police said was still in progress, were computer material, documents related to the suspect's financial operations and bank accounts in various European countries. Authorities say four French nationals were in Ahmed Brahim's apartment at the time of his arrest but were released after questioning. Mr. Brahim is now in custody in Madrid.

The Interior Minister said the 57-year old suspect may have been involved in financing the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August of 1998, because he had a close relationship with al-Qaida's reputed financial chief, Mahmdouh Mahmud Salim. Mr. Salim is now awaiting trial in the United States for his role in those bombings.

Ahmed Brahim's business activities are said to include trading in the stock market and buying and selling sports boats and computer equipment. Spanish officials say he recently sent high-tech computer material to Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia. Police say they recently detected his transfer of large sums of money out of Spain and suspected that he was liquidating assets in order to flee.

Mr. Brahim's arrest was the latest in a series of operations carried out by Spanish police against the al-Qaida network in Spain. In January two suspected al-Qaida members were arrested near Barcelona. Last November, eight suspects were arrested in Madrid and accused of direct involvement in preparing the September 11th attacks on New York and Washington.