French anti-terror police make arrests

/ Source: The Associated Press

French anti-terror police arrested 14 people, including a Muslim prayer leader, and seized guns in raids Tuesday of suspected Islamic militants in the Paris region, police said.

Police said the suspects were thought to have been involved in forging official papers. Blank documents and plastic laminating materials were found in the sweep.

Those taken into custody included at least one prayer leader, or imam, and some of his followers, police said.

Pistols also were seized in a detainee’s home, police said. Under French anti-terror laws, the suspects can be questioned for 96 hours without charge.

In Spain, authorities also announced progress with anti-terror probes.

Judge Baltasar Garzon said he has completed his investigation of an alleged al-Qaida cell accused of helping plan the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States. He did not disclose his findings, but completing the probe could possibly set the stage for a trial.

Garzon has indicted 40 people on terrorism charges, including 10 he accused specifically of helping plan the Sept. 11 attacks.

Meanwhile, one of his colleagues investigating train bombings in Madrid that killed 190 people leveled terrorism charges against three people accused of helping supply dynamite used in the attack, officials said.

A total of 23 people, mostly Moroccans, have now been charged in the March 11 bombings blamed on Islamic militants with possible links to the al-Qaida terror network.

The three Spaniards charged Tuesday with collaborating with a terrorist organization were released but ordered to register their addresses with court officials. Judge Juan del Olmo also barred one of the suspects from traveling outside Spain without his permission.

European authorities have worked together in tracking down those involved in the bombings.

In a coordinated strike across Europe, police last week arrested 17 suspected Islamic militants, including a suspected mastermind of the Madrid attacks and alleged members of a suspected cell in Belgium thought to be taking orders from him and planning an attack.

Fifteen people, mostly Palestinian, Jordanian, Moroccan and Egyptian, were arrested in raids on about 10 locations in Brussels and Antwerp in Belgium.

Italian police also picked up two suspects. They included Osman Ahmed, a 33-year-old Egyptian described as the ringleader who allegedly helped plan the Madrid attacks.