THE suspected leader of the Islamic terrorist cell smashed in Spain on Tuesday became an Islamic fundamentalist while being held in Palma prison.
Algerian Mohammed Achraf was arrested in Switzerland a month ago. Yesterday the Swiss authorities confirmed that they were holding the Algerian suspected leader of the radical Islamic cell believed to have been plotting a bomb attack in Spain. Today we have told Interpol in Madrid that this individual is in Zurich. He is under arrest with a view to a possible deportation, Justice Ministry spokesman Folco Galli told Reuters. Spain has been asked to send an urgent request for extradition...if they are interested in the extradition to Spain of this individual, he said.
On Tuesday, Spanish police, in raids carried out across the country, arrested eight suspected members of the cell, which they say was planning an attack on the High Court in the Spanish capital.
The arrests have come just seven months after train bombings by Islamic militants killed 191 people in Madrid. Police found no weapons or explosives during the raids but said they confiscated books on how to become a martyr from one of the suspects. The High Court handles cases of terrorism and is where the suspected Madrid train bombers are under investigation. It is believed that the suspects intended to drive a truck with 500 kg of explosives into the courthouse.
According to Spanish press reports, the man arrested in Switzerland, who Galli did not name, has links with the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) fighting the government in Algeria.
A spokesman for the Federal Prosecutor's office said earlier that the man, now known to be Mohammed Achraf, had been picked up for breaking Swiss migration laws. He declined to give details.
However, it has also emerged that Achraf was held in Palma prison back in 2002. Security sources in Palma have revealed that it was during his time in prison on the island that he became an emir and an Islamic fundamentalist, joining the Jihad.
He also tried to recruit new members to the Islamic terrorist cell during his time in Spanish prisons in Palma and on the mainland between 1999 and 2002.
This is the third time the Balearics has been caught up in the on-going investigations into Al Qaeda's Spanish activities and the March 11 bombings.
A former Palma resident and alleged yacht chandler is still being held under the suspicion of being one of the main treasurers for Spain's Al Qaeda cells and for having harboured a leading Al Qaeda suspect in Palma.
One of the key terrorists involved in the Madrid bombings came to Ibiza and Palma just a few weeks before the attacks to purchase the drugs exchanged for the explosives obtained from the former Spanish miner in Asturias.