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Five held over Madrid bombings

By Al Goodman
CNN Madrid Bureau Chief

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Video of the March 11 bombing of a Madrid commuter train. (Viewer discretion advised)
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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- Spanish police have arrested four Moroccans who are they believe are "directly linked" to the Madrid train bombings last March that killed 191 people.

The three men and one woman are also suspected of helping other terrorists flee, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

In addition, Belgian authorities arrested a fifth man at the request of Spanish police. All five have been identified as members of a Moroccan Islamic militant group.

The four -- from the same family -- were arrested between 6 a.m. and 7:35 a.m. (midnight to 1:35 a.m. ET) in Leganes, a southern Madrid suburb where seven of the most-wanted suspects in the train bombings blew themselves up April 3 as police closed in on their apartment hideout.

The four are suspected of helping two other suspects in the train bombings -- Mohamed Afalah and Abdelmagid Bouchar -- flee from Leganes last April around the time of the apartment explosion, the Interior Ministry said.

Those arrested Tuesday were identified as Allal Moussaten, 43; his wife, Safia Belhadj, 42; and their sons, Brahim Moussaten, 21, and Mohamed Moussaten, 20. They were arrested in or near their Leganes home.

The train bombings March 11 on four crowded commuter trains during the morning rush hour killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,600.

Police blamed the attacks on Islamic terrorists. There have been dozens of arrests, and about 20 suspects are in Spanish jails.

Others charged with lesser involvement are free on bail or conditional liberty and must report regularly to authorities. In addition, police have issued arrest warrants for other suspects.

The four Moussaten family members arrested Tuesday are allegedly linked to the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, a terrorist group whom authorities have blamed for a role in the train bombings. The four were linked to leaders of the combatant group who were arrested last year in Belgium, France and Spain.

The arrests of Combatant Group operatives in Belgium in March 2004 included a Moroccan suspect, Youssef Belhadj, age 28.

Spanish investigators believe he may be the same person as a man called Abu Dujanah -- a suspected al Qaeda spokesman in Europe -- in whose name a claim of responsibility for the train bombings was issued last year.

The Moussaten family members arrested Tuesday had a link to Belhadj, the Interior Ministry statement said, and Spanish authorities on Tuesday issued an arrest warrant for Belhadj. Despite his arrest last year in Belgium, he currently is not in jail there, the statement said.

Police were searching the Moussaten home and said there might be further arrests.


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