Spain: 11 guilty of belonging to terror group

AP News
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Posted: Dec 14, 2009 2:41 PM

A Spanish court has found 11 men guilty of belonging to a terrorist organization that was plotting to stage what would have been the country's first suicide attacks, judges said in a statement Monday.

The National Court, headed by judge Javier Gomez Bermudez, sentenced the men to up to 14 years in prison. Nine were of Pakistani nationality or origin, and two were from India.

The men, whose ringleader was 40-year-old imam Maroof Ahmed Mirza, were accused of planning attacks in Barcelona, Spain's second largest city, on orders from the Pakistan Taliban.

Police foiled the plan with a series of raids in January 2008 after a member of the terrorist cell designated to blow himself up got cold feet and alerted authorities.

Mirza was sentenced to 10 and a half years. Two others, Malik Qadeer, 33, and Shaib Iqbal,28, were sentenced to eight years and six months for belonging to a terror organization and six additional years for possession of explosives.

Gomez Bermudez and two other judges said the men had plotted to detonate bombs aboard Barcelona's subway system.

For Spaniards the plot was a chilling reminder of the Madrid terror bombings of March 2004 where packed morning commuter trains were blown apart by 10 backpack bombs that were detonated by cell phones used as timers, allowing the attackers time to get off the trains. The explosions killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,800.

The Islamic militants who claimed responsibility for the Madrid massacre said it was revenge for the presence of Spanish peacekeepers troops in Iraq.

Case prosecutor Vicente Gonzalez Mota had argued the Barcelona cell aimed to target public transport again in 2008, with a general election just two months away. The attack was allegedly planned because Spain has troops in Afghanistan and the judges concurred.

While the judges found the men guilty of belonging to a terrorist organization, they did not find them guilty of actually conspiring to stage a terrorist attack, the judges said.

The amount of explosives found was enough for training purposes but not enough to stage a major attack.