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Friday, March 14, 2008
Dutch nab Pakistani man "linked to Barcelona plot"
In January, Spanish police arrested 14 men in Barcelona suspected of plotting suicide attacks on the city's public transport network. Four bomb timers were discovered but no explosives.

Most of the men arrested were Pakistani nationals. Their cover was apparently blown by an informant, who also told Spanish police the group was planning additional attacks in Britain, France, Germany and Portugal, according to El Pais newspaper.

Early this morning Dutch police made a follow-up arrest in that investigation. A 26-year old Pakistani national, who Dutch authorities had been watching for six weeks, was arrested in the southern Dutch town of Breda. Officials said he was detained on suspicion of belonging to an "international jihadist network" preparing attacks in western Europe. However there was nothing to suggest he planned to launch an attack in the Netherlands, they said.

The arrested man had arrived in the country in September last year on a student visa having secured a place to study at a vocational college. CNN was told he had not attended lessons and had worked instead as a painter and decorator. 

The arrest comes just weeks after a series of media reports suggesting police in Europe were hunting a man called Akeel Abassi as a possible accomplice of the Barcelona cell. Several reports suggested Abassi was being hunted in connection with a possible attack in Germany.

 Alleged plot is not home-grown

Spanish authorities have indicated they believe most of the people involved in this alleged plot have been rounded up. As prosecutors in Spain and the Netherlands work on building a case they can present in court, what is striking is how it appears to subvert so much of the received wisdom. 

For the last three years or so all the talk in Europe has been about "home-grown terror." The focus has been on European nationals - mainly British, but also German and Danish to name just two - who've been radicalised at home, probably gone to Pakistan to receive some training, and then returned to Europe to carry out their attacks. 

Those accused of this alleged conspiracy are Pakistanis. On top of that it was reportedly masterminded by Pakistani Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud. That points strongly to the idea that if the alleged plot had a raison d'etre then it was Afghanistan. And, in fact, that should come as little surprise. For there is a growing belief in European counterterrorism circles that it is Afghanistan - rather than Iraq, rather than Palestine, rather than Egypt or Saudi Arabia - that is the 'cause celebre a la mode' for jihadist extremists.

By Andrew Carey
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