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Spain: Terror cell 'neutralized'

By Al Goodman
CNN Madrid Bureau Chief

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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- Spain's interior minister says the "central nucleus" of the terror cell that carried out the Madrid train bombings has been neutralized.

But Angel Acebes said Wednesday the investigation was continuing in seven countries -- Britain, Germany, Belgium, France, Bulgaria, Tunisia and Morocco.

And he acknowledged there may be other cells operating in Spain who are planning terror attacks.

The bombings aboard trains at three stations killed 190 people on March 11 and profoundly shocked the Spanish people.

Acebes said all the 200 kilograms of explosives, stolen from a mining complex in northern Spain and used by the bombers, had now been either exploded or recovered.

The cell was made up of three different groups, said Acebes, the masterminds who directed the operations, the bomb makers who made and carried the explosives onto the trains, and a group of petty crooks, many of whom were involved in drug trafficking and may have helped get explosives and make bombs.

Spanish authorities are currently have 18 people in jail on charges connected to blasts.

Acebes said investigators have determined that most of the explosives were obtained in exchange for drugs.

Acebes said investigators have determined that the same cell was also behind an attempt April 2 to blow up one of Spain's bullet trains. The explosives used in that attempt were discovered beneath a train line and neutralized.

The suspected ringleaders of the cell blew themselves up on April 3 when Spanish authorities surrounded their apartment in a Madrid suburb.

Seven people died in that explosion. Four have been identified and DNA tests are being conducted on the remains of three others to determine their identities.

Acebes said one of the dead may be the shadowy figure known as "the emir," who may have been the ultimate ringleader of the cell.

Among the details investigators have uncovered is that many of the cell members were recruited at mosques.

Several of the bombers, said Acebes, tried to purify themselves with holy water from Mecca so as not to offend Islam with attacks and suicides.

He said international cooperation, better intelligence, and, perhaps, new laws will be needed to fight similar terror cells.


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