500 spanske politimenn slo til i en stor razzia onsdag, og arresterte 16 terrormistenkte. Fem settes i forbindelse med Madrid-bombene 11. mars 2004. Hele 11 mistenkes for å ha drevet et nettverk som organiserte jihadister til Irak via Syria, på oppdrag for Abu Musab Zarqawi.

Det interessante fra et norsk synspunkt er at gruppen settes i forbindelse med Ansar al-Islam av spanske myndigheter. Ansar al-Islam regnes som den mest aktive rekrutteringsagent for Zarqawi i Europa. Tre irakere fra Ansar ble arrestert i Tyskland tirsdag.

«Basically, what the police accuse them of is raising money and recruiting people to do activities abroad related with the international jihad (holy war),» Justice Minister Jose Antonio Alonso said yesterday.

The other five are linked to the Madrid train bombings of March last year that killed 191 and wounded hundreds.

«Many of those detained expressed their desire to give up their lives as martyrs for the Islamic cause, which demonstrated how dangerous and extreme they were,» Mr Alonso said.

They belonged to «an established Islamist network in our country, linked to the terrorist organisation Ansar al-Islam/Zarqawi network,» Spain’s interior ministry said in a statement.

The network based in Spain had links with several Middle Eastern countries, the Magreb and Great Britain, but was masterminded from Syria by two key recruiters and financiers of the Islamist organisation.

The two, who controlled all communications with operatives in various countries, including Spain, were detained in May last year by Syrian authorities, and returned to their native Morocco.

Some 500 Spanish police carried out raids in Barcelona, Valencia, Cadiz and Ceuta, Spain’s enclave in Morocco.

The Spanish interior ministry said the apparent leader of the Spanish group’s recruitment activities was Samir Tahtah, 28, a Moroccan arrested in a town near Barcelona.

He coordinated communications with overseas leaders of the network and supervised the sending of recruits to Iraq for terrorist attacks, a statement said.

The other five detainees had close ties to ringleaders of last year’s bombing in Madrid. They were arrested on Tuesday in Madrid and Barcelona, the statement said.

Most had carried out robberies with violence, trafficked drugs and forged documents to finance the terror network, the ministry said.

One Madrid train bombing suspect who escaped police is believed to have died in a suicide attack in Iraq in May, the ministry said. He was named as Mohamed Afalah, who is said to have fled the scene when seven key suspects in the train bombing blew themselves up on 3 April, 2004 to avoid police capture in a flat in a Madrid suburb.

Investigations in Spain, Italy, Germany and Sweden suggest that Ansar al-Islam – the group linked to Al Zarqawi before the Iraq war -has become the most prominent militant group engaged in fundraising and recruitment.

A French intelligence chief said last month that five young men from one district in Paris had already died in Iraq, one in a suicide attack.

German police arrested three suspected members of Ansar al-Islam on Tuesday, saying they had raised significant sums for the group and acted as a courier for them.

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