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RESPONSE TO TERROR

Spanish Police Arrest 2 Al Qaeda Suspects

Europe: The men, a Moroccan and an Algerian, had been on the run since November raid, ministry says.

January 20, 2002|From Associated Press

MADRID — Police arrested two suspected members of Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist network Saturday. The pair had been on the run since a major raid against the organization late last year, Spain's Interior Ministry said.

The two men, a Moroccan and an Algerian, were arrested on a warrant by Judge Baltasar Garzon as part of an operation that jailed eight men in Spain last November for their alleged role in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Bin Laden is the prime suspect in the attacks.

A statement from Interior Ministry headquarters in Madrid said the two were arrested in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, a sprawling suburban area near Barcelona. The Moroccan was identified as Mohamed Najib Chaib, 35, and the Algerian as 31-year-old Atmane Resali.

The ministry, which oversees national security, said the two had lived in Madrid in an apartment belonging to Luis Jose Galan, one of the eight jailed in November. They fled the Spanish capital when the eight men were arrested but were eventually traced to a relative's apartment in L'Hospitalet.

In November, Garzon said Galan was trained at a camp run by Bin Laden in Indonesia in July 2001. Arms, ammunition, machetes and forged identity documents were seized at Galan's apartment, police said.

Garzon jailed the eight men, charging them with being Al Qaeda members and with taking part in preparations for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Authorities had been gathering evidence against them in Spain for nearly a decade before they were arrested.

In his jailing order, the magistrate said the eight "were directly linked to the preparation and carrying out of the attacks perpetrated by 'suicide pilots' on Sept. 11, 2001, and which caused thousands of deaths."

The judge said there was convincing evidence the eight men "formed part of an extremist Islamic group of a terrorist nature integrated in the support and development structure of the Al Qaeda organization's criminal activities."

Garzon said the eight were involved in preparing Islamic guerrillas and providing cover for others in Spain and Europe. They also raised money for the organization, mainly through stolen credit cards and robberies.

The two arrested Saturday are likely to be brought to Madrid for questioning and possible jailing. The eight already in prison will remain there while Garzon prepares a case for trial against them.

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