Moroccan authorities have warned Spain that they have lost track of 400 suspected militants who trained in al-Qaida terrorist camps in Afghanistan, a newspaper reported Sunday.
Most of the suspects in the Madrid train bombings were Moroccan, prompting that country’s government to alert Spanish anti-terrorism judge Baltasar Garzon of the situation during a meeting in Rabat, Morocco, in early July.
About 600 Moroccans were known to have trained in Afghanistan in camps sponsored by Osama bin Laden, the daily El Pais said, quoting unidentified sources close to police and judicial officials.
But Morocco knew the whereabouts of only 200 of them, El Pais said.
No confirmation immediately available
Spanish Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso declined to confirm the report, but said Spanish authorities were in constant contact with their Moroccan counterparts.
The newspaper story backs up statements Garzon made earlier this month to a Spanish parliamentary commission investigating the Madrid bombings. He told the commission that Morocco was teeming with some 100 al-Qaida-linked cells capable of staging suicide attacks in Europe.
More than 50 people, mostly Moroccans, have been arrested and 16 remain in jail in connection with the train bombings that killed 191 people and injured some 2,000 others.
Garzon told the commission that many of the cells are in northern Morocco and contain members who speak perfect Spanish, allowing them to slip easily in and out of Spain — just a short ferry ride across the Strait of Gibraltar.
He also said the groups raise money by dealing hashish, selling stolen cars and smuggling people into Spain.
El Pais reported Sunday that Moroccan officials and Garzon also discussed greater anti-terrorism cooperation between Spain and Morocco and among North African countries, like Algeria, and European countries, like France and Italy.