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TERRORISM

Spain busts gang led by 9/11 attacks financier

Spanish police said Saturday they dismantled a gang that cloned credit cards led by an Algerian previously jailed for helping finance the September 11th, 2001 attacks in the United States.

Spain busts gang led by 9/11 attacks financier
Smoke pours from the World Trade Center after being hit by two planes September 11, 2001 in New York City. Archive photo: Craig Allen / AFP

Police said they had arrested 19 people in Madrid who specialised in making illegal credit cards by getting people's data — such as pin numbers — in the darknet and transferring it to other cards.

They would then draw money out from cash points or buy items in stores, said the police statement.

The leader of the gang, a 49-year-old Algerian man whose name they would not reveal, had used the same process to help finance the September 11th attacks which killed nearly 3,000 people.

A police spokeswoman said the man had been tried and convicted in Spain, adding she did not know how long he had served time in jail before being released.

This time, he was cloning credit cards for his own personal benefit, she said.

Spain was the scene of a high-security mass trial in 2005 of alleged September 11th plotters, with 24 Al-Qaeda suspects taking the stand, 18 of whom were jailed.

It is unclear though whether the Algerian gang leader was among them, or was convicted separately.

Spain was also the scene of a key meeting in the northeastern city of Tarragona just months before the attacks, which Mohamed Atta, the pilot ringleader of the September 11th hijackers, attended.

Participants at that meeting are believed to have finalised preparations for the attacks, including deciding the date.

TERRORISM

Three suspected jihadists held in Barcelona

A court in Spain on Monday remanded in custody three suspected members of Islamic State arrested last week in Barcelona, including an Algerian man who had fought for the Islamist group in Iraq.

Three suspected jihadists held in Barcelona
Archive photo of a suspected jihadist arrested near Barcelona. Photo: AFP

Spanish authorities began their investigation after becoming aware just before Christmas that the “potentially dangerous” Algerian man was in Spain, police said in a statement.   

The man, a “jihadist” who had fought for the Islamic State group in Iraq, was arrested at a building occupied by squatters in Barcelona's seaside neighbourhood of Barceloneta, the statement added.

Police detained two other Algerian men as part of the operation, one suspected of giving him “logistical support” in Spain and another described by police as has “acolyte”.

The operation was carried out in cooperation with European Union law enforcement agency Europol and the FBI, as well as the intelligence services of Spain and Algeria, the statement said.

The three men appeared before a court on Monday where the presiding judge ordered they be remanded in custody on suspicion of membership in a terrorist organisation.

Their arrest comes as the trial of three men accused of helping the jihadists behind the August 2017 attacks in Barcelona and a nearby town that killed 16 people is wrapping up at a court near Madrid.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks, one of which involved a van ramming people in the centre of Barcelona.   

While none of the three men on trial are charged with direct responsibility, they are in the dock for helping the attackers, who were all shot dead by police.

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