MADRID, Spain – Police have arrested five men who could have aided the escape of two fugitives of the 2004 Madrid train bombings, Spain's interior minister said Wednesday.
Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said each of the five, who are also suspected of ties with international terrorism, was detained in a different Spanish city — Barcelona, Tarragona, Gerona, Cadiz and A Coruna.
The five, identified as Zohaib Khadiri, Djilali Boussiri, Nasreddine Ben Laid Amri, Samir Tahtah and Kamal Ahbar, may have collaborated in the escape of two fugitives of the Madrid bombings, Moroccans Mohamed Belhadj and Mohamed Afalah, Rubalcaba said.
"This operation has led to arrest of five men suspected of links with the March 11 bombings" Rubalcaba said.
He added that the operation had been ordered by National Court Judge Juan del Olmo, who is probing the blasts aboard four commuter trains that killed 191 people and injured more than 1,500. The bombings were blamed on a group of mostly North African Muslim extremists.
Belhadj, along with Said Berraj and Daoud Ouhane, is sought by authorities, although all are believed to have fled Spain long ago. Afalah is believed to have blown himself up in Iraq.
The nationalities of the detained and other details of the arrests were not immediately available.
At least one of the detained, Tahtah, was already in prison for another terrorism case.
Tahtah was ordered jailed last year on charges of belonging to a Syrian-based network that recruited suicide bombers to attack U.S. troops in Iraq,
Police said they found forged documentation and cash in the raids.