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Homeland Security

Spanish Authorities Arrest Suspected Leader of al-Qaida Cells

12 January 2006

Authorities in Spain have arrested a Moroccan man suspected of heading two al-Qaida linked cells that authorities believe recruited Islamist militants to fight in Iraq.

The interior ministry says officials took Omar Nakhcha into custody Thursday in the northeastern part of Spain.

Officials say Nakhcha is believed to be the leader of two cells that were broken up on Tuesday. Police arrested 20 people in the capital, Madrid, as well as in Barcelona and in Spain's northern Basque region.

Nakhcha is also suspected of having helped the men involved in the 2004 Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people evade police and flee Spain.

Police say those detained Tuesday are believed to have links to people in Algeria, Belgium, France, Iraq, Morocco, the Netherlands, Syria and Turkey.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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