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Thursday, June 5, 2008
Charges in Barcelona - Ebbs and Flows of a Terror Case
When it broke in the third week of January it looked a big story. A dozen or so men, almost all of them from Pakistan, arrested in Spain just days ahead of allegedly launching suicide bomb attacks in Barcelona. Then it transpired that very little in the way of explosive material had been found, casting doubt on whether the men really were in a position to carry out their attacks there and then. First question mark.

The story picked up again with reports there was an international dimension. El Pais reported attacks were being planned in five other European countries. And then a short while later the United States Defence Secretary Robert Gates told a conference in Munich that the cell appeared linked to Baitullah Mehsud. He’s the leader of the Taliban in Pakistan and the man blamed for the death of Benazir Bhutto. It looked once again like an important story.

Then a few weeks ago I received strong steer that took the air right out of it. The alleged attacks were not as imminent as it had appeared at the time, I heard; indeed, the threat had been exaggerated. I downgraded my interest accordingly.

And so today and the news that indictments have been brought against the men by Judge Ismael Moreno. The eleven charged, writes the Judge, were intending “to commit various terrorist suicide attacks between January 18th and January 20th on public transport in the city of Barcelona.”

The group were also “very close to achieving technical capacity with explosives.” Enough material was recovered to make “one or more” bombs, according to the indictment, adding “although they lacked sufficient destructive potency for the commission of an attack that would guarantee large-scale damage, they could have been used for training in the handling of explosives.”

The Judge said that four of the men were to carry out the suicide attacks; three of them, he noted, having arrived in Spain just weeks before their arrest. Moreno also named two men as the group’s alleged ideological leaders, including a 64-year old man, Mohamad Ayud Elahi Bibi, described as having lived in Spain for many years.

The indictment makes little mention of any international dimension and all these charges are yet to be tried in court. But as a story of interest, it goes back up the flagpole.

By Andrew Carey
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News and observations on the threats to international security and the challenges posed by terrorism to societies around the world. From breaking news to background stories, from serious analysis to casual asides, if we think it's interesting we'll post it here.
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