Police in Italy have arrested a Moroccan they say was one of the planners of the March bombings in Madrid, which killed 191 people. Another suspect was arrested in Milan as similar anti-terror raids were carried out in Belgium, France, and Spain.
Italian police have arrested two alleged Islamic militants, one of whom is suspected of being the brains behind the March 11 bombings in Madrid. The arrests took place late Monday in the northern Italian city Milan.
Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu praised the work of the security forces, saying the operation has, for the moment, blocked a dangerous terror group with links to al-Qaida. He said the arrests are the result of international cooperation.
One of the detained, 33-year-old Rabei Osman Ahmed, known as "Mohamed the Egyptian" despite his Moroccan nationality, is considered to have played an active role in planning the attacks.
Police said he had close ties to the accused ringleader of the attacks, Serhane Ben Abdelmajid Fakhet, one of the seven terrorists who blew themselves up in an apartment outside Madrid when police closed in on them.
Mohammed the Egyptian is also believed to have links with Amer Aziz, considered the head of al-Qaida's military structure in Europe.
Italian police arrested him on a warrant issued by Spanish judge Juan Del Olmo, who is leading investigations into the bombings. The other man arrested was 21-year-old Palestinian Yahia Payumi, who owned the apartment rented by Mohamed the Egyptian.
Both men are accused of international terrorism.
The Madrid bombs, which exploded in four commuter trains, killed 191 people and injured more than 2,000 others. The bomb attacks have been blamed on Islamic militants with possible links to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terror network. Twenty people, mostly Moroccans, have been charged in connection with the attacks.
The arrests in Italy follow a three-month joint investigation by the country's anti-terror unit and Italian intelligence. They were part of an international police operation. Raids were being carried out in three other European countries: Belgium, France, and Spain. One suspect was also arrested in Belgium.
Italian anti-terror police have been extremely active since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States. Investigations have led to more than 70 arrests last year alone.