ALLEGED TERROR CELL SMASHED BY POLICE

Police in Barcelona arrested 14 people suspected of links with an Islamist terror network after finding bomb-related material during raids on several houses in they city last Saturday. Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba said the suspects included 12 from Pakistan and two from India. Spain’s National Intelligence Centre (CNI) had apparently warned France, the UK and Portugal that a terror cell was preparing an imminent attack to coincide with a European tour by Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf. Mr Rubalcaba said the evidence suggested that they were faced with “a radical Islamist group with a significant level of organisation which seems to have taken a step beyond ideological radicalisation”. He said the group appeared to have been “planning to equip itself with material to make explosives and so to carry out violent actions”. A spokesman for the Pakistani community in Catalonia insisted that the men arrested were preachers who belong to the Taglib current of Islam and had nothing to do with the jihadists. Just over 70% of all Pakistanis in Spain live in Catalonia where more than 70 have been detained in the last five years on terrorism-related charges. Islamist militant bomb attacks on train stations in Madrid in March 2004 killed 191 people and injured more than 1,800. Most of the 21 people convicted of the attacks were found to have been part of a local Islamist militant group inspired by al-Qaeda, but not part of that organisation. Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero told reporters last Saturday that it was too early to arrive at any conclusions as to what the suspects might have been planning: “Let’s be as cautious as is advisable in these cases, with regard to the scope, intentions and what this potential group of radical Islamist activists represented. Domestic security is a key issue in the run-up to the general election on March 9th. The governing Socialist Party has said that, during its four-year term of office, 300 Islamist militants have been arrested.

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