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Suspects 'planned Spanish suicide attacks'

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: 10 terror suspects arraigned for plotting Barcelona attacks; two released
  • NEW: Judge says they plotted suicide attacks against public transport
  • NEW: Judge says three suicide bombers, one explosive expert arrived from Pakistan
  • NEW: Arrests took place Saturday; plot was allegedly to be executed that weekend
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By Al Goodman
CNN Madrid Bureau Chief
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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- The Spanish judge overseeing the arraignment of 10 terrorism suspects said Wednesday that they had "planned to carry out a series of suicide attacks" last weekend on public transportation in Barcelona.

In a sequence of six-page rulings, one for each of the 10 suspects he ordered to be held in jail after their arraignments.

"Judge Ismael Moreno wrote that the suspects "had achieved human operational capacity and were very close to achieving full technical capacity with explosives, with the aim of using the those explosives for a jihadi terrorist attack, and it can be deduced that the members of the terrorist cell now broken up planned to carry out a series of suicide attacks last weekend, January 18 to 20, against public transport in the city of Barcelona."

CNN has viewed a copy of one of the court orders.

The ruling said three suspected suicide bombers had traveled from Pakistan to Barcelona since October, with the most recent one arriving as late as mid-January.

The three had followed another Pakistani man -- the alleged explosives expert -- who had just arrived after a five-month stay in Pakistan.

"This pattern is common in Islamic extremist groups, which to carry out an attack usually send in the suicide bombers shortly before it will occur," the judge wrote.

"The arrivals of these three occurred about two months after the presumed bomb maker had returned (to Barcelona)."

Further, Moreno wrote that an informant had told authorities about the suspected suicide bombers and the suspected explosives expert.

He added that police found nitrocellulose and mechanical and electrical elements that could be used to make one or more bombs.

Twelve men were arraigned Wednesday, but Moreno allowed two to go free. Those two -- Pakistani nationals who had been arrested with the others -- were released for lack of evidence, according to their court-appointed lawyer and a court source.

The 10 who were kept in custody include eight Pakistani nationals and two Indian nationals who are Muslim.

At least two of the 10 were prepared to be suicide bombers, prosecutor Vicente Gonzalez alleged during the arraignment, according to a government spokeswoman. The other eight were charged with fabrication and possession of explosives, she added.

The arraignments took place before Moreno at the National Court in Madrid, which handles terrorism cases.

The suspects were arrested last weekend in Barcelona and taken to Civil Guard headquarters in Madrid, where they were questioned. Authorities announced the arrests on Saturday.

Spanish and other European intelligence agencies told Spanish police that the suspects were acquiring bomb-making materials. These included four timers to activate bombs, Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said Saturday.

"They had taken a step beyond radicalization and were trying to get the means to make explosives," Rubalcaba said.

The Interior Minister said authorities searched five homes in Barcelona and seized the four timers along with computer information.

The ministry on Saturday released photographs -- which it said police shot immediately after the searches -- showing what appeared to be timers, batteries, cables and ball bearings.

Spain's largest-circulation daily, El Pais, reported that traces of an explosive sometimes used by Islamic terrorists were also found during the searches.

Spanish news media reported that authorities became alarmed recently when a known Pakistani militant arrived in Barcelona.

More than 250 suspected Islamic extremists have been arrested in Spain since the Madrid train bombings killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,800 on March 11, 2004, the Interior Ministry has told CNN.

Last October, more than a dozen Islamic extremists were convicted in Madrid for their roles in the train bombings.

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But many of the suspected Islamic radicals arrested in Spain since the train bombings were accused only of financing or recruitment for Islamic terrorist activities.

Spain remains on "permanent alert" against Islamic terrorism. Al Qaeda communiques regularly make specific references to Spain. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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