Al Qaeda suspects held in Spain
MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- Spanish police have arrested two men near Barcelona with suspected links to the al Qaeda terrorist network, a government official told CNN.
The suspects had been sought by a Spanish judge in connection with a terrorist crackdown last November that resulted in the arrests of eight men believed to have direct links to al Qaeda, the network led by suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.
A government statement identified the men as Najib Chaib-Mohamed, 35, from Morocco, and Atmane Resali, 31, from Algeria.
The men were arrested shortly after noon in the Barcelona suburb of Hospitalet de Llobregat and charged with belonging to a terrorist organisation.
Chaib-Mohamed and Resali shared an apartment in Madrid with one of the leading suspects in the November roundup, according to the Spanish government.
They fled from Madrid after the roundup and headed to Hospitalet de Llobregat to stay with a relative. Police had been staking out the relative's house before making the arrests, the Spanish government said.
Spanish authorities believe Mohammad Atta, the accused ringleader of the September 11 hijackers, visited the beachfront town of Salou, about an hour's drive from where Saturday's arrests occurred. U.S. authorities believe Atta piloted the first jet that crashed into the World Trade Center.
Shortly after the terror attacks in September, Spanish authorities arrested six Algerians on charges related to terrorist activities, but not directly linked to al Qaeda.
Spanish officials are investigating sleeper terrorist cells in Spain believed to be operating on the fringes of larger terrorist networks.
The arrests came as police in the UK were given more time to question nine men arrested in Britain's biggest sweep against suspected terrorists since September 11.
Officers continued to search one property in Leicester, central England, following raids on Thursday that saw eight people arrested under Britain's Terrorism Act.
A ninth man was arrested in London on Friday. All nine are being held in Leicester.
On Friday evening a magistrate issued a warrant allowing police to hold and question the men, aged between 20 and 40, without charge until Monday. Under the Terrorism Act, police can obtain warrants to question suspects for up to seven days without charge.
Leicestershire police told CNN that over two days 17 people had been arrested, nine under the Terrorism Act and another eight -- six men and two women -- under the Immigration Act.
The arrests came after specialist teams completed searches at six addresses in Leicester and one in London.
Two Algerian men also remained in custody on Saturday, charged with membership of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network.
They were charged on Thursday, the first time British authorities had charged anyone with membership of the outlawed group blamed for the September 11 suicide attacks since it was put on a list of proscribed groups.
They are being held in custody until their next court appearance on January 24. The authorities have been aware of possible al Qaeda activity in Leicester, 100 miles (160 kms) north of London.
Djamel Beghal, a 35-year-old French-Algerian held in Paris in connection with a plot to bomb the U.S. Embassy, reportedly told investigators that he had recruited supporters at mosques in Leicester and London.
Police said this week's arrests were part of a European anti-terrorist investigation and were not directly linked to the events of September 11.
CNN's Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman contributed to this report