ALLEGED INDIAN,PAKISTANI TABLIGHIS HELD IN SPAIN WITH IED MATERIAL
INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR---PAPER NO.358
( This may please be read in continuation of my earlier article at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers/paper80.html . I had subsequently made a reference to the Tablighi Jamaat in many other articles too, which are available at www.southasiaanalysis.org )
Twelve Pakistani and two Indian Muslims, allegedly belonging to the Tablighi Jamaat, have been arrested by the Spanish authorities following raids in a number of houses and a mosque in the Barcelona area of Spain. The Spanish authorities announced the arrests on January 19,2008, but it is not known when the arrests were made. It is also not known whether the arrested Muslims were residents of Spain or were members of a travelling group of the Tablighi Jamaat of Pakistan.
2.The Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) of Pakistan has branches in many countries. It also frequently sends groups on visits to other countries having a Muslim population ostensibly to give talks on the Holy Koran to the local Muslims. It has close association with the jihadi terrorist organisations and during their travels, its members spot talents for recruitment by the jihadi organisations. Al Qaeda and other jihadi terrorist organisations also make recruitment from among the Muslims from other countries attending the annual conventions of the Tablighi Jamaat in Pakistan and Bangladesh, which are largely attended.
3. The Tablighi Jamaat of Pakistan also includes Muslims from other countries such as India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Thailand, Myanmar etc in its travel groups for interacting with Muslims from those countries living in the West. It was reported last year that the Argentinian authorities found a Tablighi group from Pakistan, which had many Malaysian nationals studying in the madrasas of Pakistan. Similarly in the past, Thai and Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar studying in Pakistani madrasas had travelled with TJ groups of Pakistan to the Central Asian Republics and Dagestan.
4. Announcing the arrests at a press conference on January 19,2008, Mr.Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, the Spanish Interior r Minister, said that more arrests were expected. According to him, the police, who acted with the help of information from foreign intelligence agencies, raided several apartments, a prominent mosque ( the Torek Ben Ziad mosque), and a small prayer hall. The police reportedly seized material for making explosives, including four timing devices, during the raids. He said that the detained suspects were Islamists who “belonged to a well-organized group that had gone a step beyond radicalization.” He added: "“When someone has timers in their home, you have no option but to think violent acts are being planned.”
5. News agency reports have quoted the Minister as characterising the detained group of Pakistani and Indian Muslims as "highly organised radical Islamists", who were preparing to carry out a terrorist strike in Spanish territory. He added that it was "probable" that some of the 14 were innocent. A private radio station called Cadena Ser claimed that the suspects were believed to have links to a financial network for certain branches of Al Qaeda. All the arrests were reportedly made in the Raval neighborhood of Barcelona, where there is a large Muslim immigrant population.
6."El Pais", a Spanish daily, claimed that the Spanish authorities have warned France, Portugal and Britain of the possibility of attacks on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf during a visit to Europe the coming week. The newspaper cited sources in the Spanish intelligence as saying that small groups composed principally of Pakistanis were preparing to carry out attacks "imminently." Musharraf, who is addressing the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzereland, is also scheduled to visit the UK, France and Belgium.The Spanish Prime Minister, Mr. Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, has cautioned the public not to jump to conclusions about those arrested.
7. In May last year, the authorities of Barcelona had claimed to have dismantled a network that was allegedly recruiting fighters and funding militant organisations in North Africa and Iraq. Thirteen Moroccans and two Algerians were arrested in that case.In September 2004, 11 Pakistanis were arrested in Barcelona on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks. None of them was prosecuted.Three Pakistanis were arrested and prosecuted last year on a charge of raising funds illegally from the local Muslim community. Two Pakistanis were arrested and prosecuted on a charge of forging travel documents.
8. On October 24,2007, the Spanish authorities arrested four Algerians and two Moroccans on a charge of recruiting jihadis for fighting in Iraq and collecting funds through the Internet. The authorities alleged that they were collecting the funds to assist the families of those arrested in Morocco in connection with the May 2003 bombings in Casablanca that killed dozens of people.
9. After the Madrid blasts of March,2004,Moroccans and Algerians in Spain are under close surveillance by the local police and intelligence agencies. In view of this, Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda organisations have been looking for recruits in the communities of Pakistani and Indian Muslims, who were not subjected to the same strict surveillance.
10. The Spanish authorities have not so far released the personal particulars of the detained Pakistani and Indian Muslims. ( 20-1-08)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )