Spanish police arrest 14 in anti-terror raids

 (AFP)         

MADRID - Spanish police have smashed a suspected Islamist terror cell, arresting 14 people and recovering bomb-making equipment in overnight raids in Barcelona, the interior minister said on Saturday.

During our searches, we found various materials which could be explosives or be used to make explosives,’ Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba told a press conference in Madrid. Those arrested included 12 Pakistanis and two Indians, he said. Four timing devices as well as computer equipment which was still being examined were also recovered.He said that the group could be characterised as ‘radical Islamist’, was ‘highly organised’ and was preparing to carry out an attack in the north-eastern Spanish city.The operation, which saw five homes raided by police, was carried out on the basis of information gathered by Spain’s domestic and foreign intelligence agencies.The intelligence suggested ‘the possibility that a terrorist action was being prepared on Spanish soil, in Barcelona to be precise,’ Rubalcaba said.Police then ‘detected an organised group suspected of gathering materials used to make explosives,’ and decided immediately to swoop, he said.He added that it was ‘probable’ that some of the 14 were innocent.Private radio station Cadena Ser reported that the suspects were believed to have links to a financial network for certain branches of Al Qaeda.All the arrests took place in the Raval neighborhood of Barcelona, home to a large Muslim immigrant population, media reports said.In May last year in Barcelona, authorities dismantled a network that was recruiting fighters and funding militant organisations in North Africa and Iraq. Thirteen Moroccans and two Algerians were arrested in that case.On March 11, 2004, simultaneous bombings on commuter trains in the Spanish capital Madrid killed 191 people.Newspaper El Pais reported on its website that Spanish authorities have warned France, Portugal and Britain of the possibility of attacks on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf during a visit to Europe next week.Small groups composed principally of Pakistanis were preparing to carry out attacks ‘imminently,’ the report cited Spanish intelligence agency sources as saying.Musharraf begins a European tour on Sunday that will see him visit Brussels, France, Britain and the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, speaking in Portugal, praised the intelligence services for the raids but said not to jump to conclusions about those arrested.

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