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Spain arrests 11 terror suspects

By CNN's Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman

MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- Spanish police have arrested 11 suspected Islamic terrorists who police said were engaged in recruiting other terrorists and providing them with forged documents and other logistical support, a senior government official told CNN.

Police said they belonged to the Muyaidin movement and were linked to suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.

The alleged leader of the group is a Syrian-born Spanish national, Imaz Edim Baraktiarkas. The other nine are Tunisian or Algerian nationals.

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At a news conference with visiting Italian Prime Minister Sylvio Berlusconi Tuesday, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar announced an "important operation" against Islamic terrorism.

Interior Minister Mariano Rajoy soon after gave limited details of the roundup.

In September, Spain arrested six Algerians it said were part of a similar logistics cell for Islamic terrorists.

Investigators have been trying to determine what connection the six may have had to Mohammed Atta, who is thought to have piloted the first plane to hit New York's World Trade Center towers on September 11.

Atta made two trips to Spain this year, in January and July, during which police believe he met with other terrorists.

Atta reportedly met with at least one of the suspects, two Spanish television stations reported. CNN has not confirmed those reports.

Rajoy said the arrests in Madrid were the result of a two-year police investigation with assistance form other European police departments.

Since September 11, police have revealed visits to Spain of other suspected Islamic terrorists who are currently in detention in Belgium and Italy on suspicion of plotting to attack American targets in western Europe.

Last June, police arrested another suspected Islamic terrorist considered to be a bin Laden aide. He was quickly deported to police custody in France.



 
 
 
 


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