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Spain seeks bomb 'mastermind'


Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed
Italian officials said Sayed Ahmed suspected of planning new attacks.
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Madrid (Spain)
Acts of terror

MADRID, Spain -- Spanish officials say they will seek the extradition from Italy of an Egyptian man suspected of planning the Madrid train bombings that killed 190 people.

Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed -- a 32-year-old Egyptian known to investigators as "Mohamed the Egyptian" -- was arrested in Milan on Tuesday.

Spain described him as "one of the masterminds" of the Madrid attacks that came three days before a general election.

Authorities have said the bombings were the work of Islamic militants acting in the name of al Qaeda, and a Spanish judge has charged 20 people in the case, most of them Moroccans.

A Spanish court began extradition proceedings shortly after Sayed Ahmed was arrested but needed approval from the Cabinet for the request to go forward.

"The Cabinet has decided to request the extradition of Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed, known as the Egyptian, to whom very important responsibility is assigned for his acts in the terrorist murders of March 11," Reuters reported Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega as saying on Friday.

Prosecutors are expected to charge Sayed Ahmed in connection with at least 190 murders, 1,400 attempted murders and four terrorist acts -- one for each train bombed.

An Italian interior ministry official said investigators believed Sayed Ahmed "was preparing one or more attacks in Europe but not in Italy."

"One or more attacks in Europe have been foiled as a result of this operation," the official said. He refused to say how close to carrying out his plan the suspect was believed to have been.

A Spanish interior ministry spokesman said investigators had linked Sayed Ahmed to Sarhane Ben Abdelmajid Fakhet, a Tunisian who they said was a ringleader in the attacks.

Fakhet was among the suspected terrorists who blew themselves up April 3 as Spanish police closed in on their hideout in a Madrid suburb.

Spanish investigators said Sayed Ahmed had been in Spain and under police surveillance earlier this year because of his connections to Fakhet.

Spanish police, however, could not gather enough evidence to arrest him, nor could police in France, where he went from Spain.

The Italian interior ministry spokesman also said Sayed Ahmed was linked to Amer El Azizi, a Moroccan wanted in the attacks and still at large.

Spanish authorities have asked for international arrest warrants for more than 10 people for alleged links to the bombings.

They also maintain a separate list of others being sought, although international arrest warrants have not necessarily been asked for those people.

In Brussels, Belgium, police on Tuesday also announced the arrest of 15 people in a series of raids carried out by a federal prosecutor dealing with terrorism cases. (Full story)

The prosecutor, Johan Delmulle, said the suspects had "links with persons who are related to the attacks in Madrid."

Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman and Rome Bureau Chief Alessio Vinci contributed to this report.


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