Police arrested six Spaniards in the northern Asturias region Wednesday, accusing them of supplying the dynamite used in the Madrid terrorist attack, officials said.
The suspects included the security guard of a coal mine from which the 440 pounds of explosives used in the March 11 train bombings were stolen, Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso said.
Two other suspects were the wife and brother-in-law of Jose Emilio Suarez, a former miner in Asturias who already has been jailed and charged with multiple murders in the attacks, which killed 191 people.
The six suspects have not been officially charged with a crime but were suspected of supplying the dynamite, Alonso said. The brother-in-law had been arrested once before on March 27 but was released after questioning.
Alonso declined to give details of how the dynamite was passed on to the suspected Islamic cell that staged the attacks. But officials previously have said the bombers paid for the dynamite with cash and drugs.
Spain to seek extradition
Alonso also said Rabei Osman Ahmed, an Egyptian arrested Monday in Milan, Italy, in connection with the March 11 attacks, was a key figure in its planning and “a person of major importance in the structure of al-Qaida in Spain and the European Union.”
Spanish prosecutors asked investigating magistrate Juan del Olmo to seek permission from Italy to question Osman Ahmed. Spain on Friday will formally ask for his extradition, Alonso said.
In a telephone call monitored by Italian police days before the arrest, a transcript of which was published by Spanish newspapers on Wednesday, Osman Ahmed told his roommate: “The Madrid attack was my plan, and those who died as martyrs are my very dear friends.” Seven suspects blew themselves up in an apartment outside Madrid as police moved in to arrest them on April 3.
“The Madrid connection is me. When it happened I wasn’t there,” part of the transcript read.
Osman Ahmed was arrested on a warrant issued by Del Olmo, who is leading the probe into the bombings in Madrid.
The arrest was part of raids that also led to the detention of 15 people, mostly Palestinian, Jordanian, Moroccan and Egyptian, on Wednesday in Belgium. Four of those detained were charged with preparing terrorist attacks, but the target wasn’t known, Belgian officials said. The other suspects were either released or turned over to immigration authorities.
Belgian police said the people they arrested likely were not involved in the Madrid attack.
Was NATO headquarters a target?
Federal prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Isabelle van Heers also said it was “impossible to confirm” Italian media reports that the group might have been targeting NATO headquarters or the European Parliament building in Brussels. A NATO spokesman refused to comment.
Apart from the Madrid probe, Osman Ahmed is also mentioned in a jailing order issued by Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon on May 18 against an Algerian named Samir Mahdjoub. Mahdjoub was charged with recruiting Islamic extremists for Ansar al-Islam, a group linked to al-Qaida, and sending them to terrorism training camps in Iraq, National Court officials said.
Garzon said Osman Ahmed was linked to Mahdjoub, whose brother Abderrazak is in jail in Italy on charges of recruiting militants to carry out suicide attacks against U.S.-led forces in Iraq.