Friday, January 24, 2003

Breaking News: Major Al Qaeda Bust in Barcelona

Click here to read La Vanguardia's online story in Spanish.

Acting on information from the French judicial police, Spanish police arrested 19 people in Catalonia this morning in an operation that began at 3:30 AM. Three of them have been released. Eleven have been sent to Madrid where they will be held under tight custody. More than 150 police officers participated in the more than a dozen raids made. Guns, bomb-making material, explosives, and two barrels of ricin were confiscated. The arrested are allegedly linked to Al Qaeda and to an Algerian radical splinter group. They have been linked to the bombing in Bali, the planned attempt to blow up Strasbourg Cathedral, and the plans to release gas in the Paris metro and the London underground.

The arrests were made in Barcelona and Girona provinces, some in Barcelona and Girona themselves, and others in Banyoles, Olot, Salt, Santa Coloma de Gramanet, and L'Hospitalet. The arrested are of Algerian, Pakistani, and Moroccan ancestry. They had apparently planned to use the confiscated material for actions in Algeria and Chechenia.

I have checked three news sources; La Vanguardia and Television Española emphasize the arrests, the confiscated material, the police work, and the terrorist connections of the arrested. TV Catalunya, however, controlled by the Catalan nationalist government, emphasized the police errors--they interviewed one of the arrested who was later freed and he said, "They came in with guns and kicked down the door and my wife and kids were in there." (Sorry, dude, if you're suspected of being a terrorist they can kick your door down and arrest you with a warrant, which they had. Be thankful you live here where you get turned loose if you're really innocent, unlike, say, wherever you come from.) They interviewed a Catalan friend of one of the others arrested, who looked like a goddamn squatter (the Catalan guy), and he said, "He's not guilty of anything. And if he's guilty of something, then it's being a good person and letting some people stay at his house." (Uh, I think that's called harboring, if those people were terrorists and he knew it.) They showed several of the kicked-down doors and a couple of weeping wives. (Sorry they took hubby away. Hope he's innocent for both of your sakes. But I'll bet he's not.) In general, they made it look like this was the act of the oppressive police going after framed people. The police did bust down one wrong door, realized they had the wrong place--TV Catalunya gave a long interview to the woman, who looked like an old slapper and was clearly drunk while the reporter was talking to her--said, "Sorry," left, and busted down the right door.

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