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Spain arrests suspected Islamic extremists

  • Story Highlights
  • Police arrest three suspected Islamic extremists in a northern Basque city
  • Men are suspected of promoting radical ideology to the Muslim community
  • The arrest warrants were issued by the National Court in Madrid
  • Arrests come three weeks before Spain's parliamentary elections on March 9
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From CNN Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman
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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- Police arrested three Algerian men early Thursday in the northern Basque city of Vitoria on suspicion of promoting radical ideology among the Muslim community, the Basque regional government said in a statement.

The three were not immediately identified but police said they were each around 30 years old and had prior police records for petty crimes. Police in this case suspect them of distributing CDs and MP3 files obtained from the Internet, with calls for an Islamic "jihad," the statement said.

Basque regional police began the investigation last December and located two sites where the alleged distribution of material took place: an apartment and a telephone store, where people without fixed telephone phones often go to make calls or use the Internet, the statement said.

The National Court in Madrid, which investigates terrorism, issued the arrest warrants, and Basque police detained the suspects around 4 a.m. local time Thursday (10 p.m. ET Wednesday) in their apartment in the historic center of Vitoria, the capital of the Basque region.

Police seized a laptop computer, two hard drives and about 30 CDs from the apartment and from the telephone store, where one of the suspects worked. Authorities were examining the material and later will send the suspects to the National Court, the statement said.

The arrests come three weeks before Spain's parliamentary elections on March 9 and just a few weeks after Spanish police in Barcelona arrested 14 suspected Islamic suspects, mainly Pakistani nationals, on suspicion of planning suicide attacks in Barcelona and elsewhere in Europe. A National Court judge later ordered 10 of the 14 to be held in jail, while four were released.

There was no immediate indication that the arrests in Vitoria and Barcelona were linked. But Spain's Interior Minister said recently the nation remains on "permanent alert" against Islamic terrorism. Al Qaeda communiques regularly make specific references to Spain.

More than 300 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 train bombings occurred just three days before the parliamentary elections in 2004, when the Socialist candidate, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, won an upset victory to become prime minister, over his conservative rival, Mariano Rajoy. The two men now face a rematch in the elections next month. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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