Spain Arrests Suspected Islamist for Plotting Attacks

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Spanish police arrested a suspected Islamist for plotting terrorist attacks in Spain and elsewhere in Europe, authorities said Friday.

They arrested Mohamed Echaabi, a 22-year-old Moroccan, on Thursday in the eastern city of Valencia.

A police statement said he had "the same profile" as Mohamed Merah, a French Algerian who shot dead seven people last year, including three children in a Jewish school in Toulouse.

Echaabi had traveled to Gaza in 2011 and had also tried to buy guns and explosives, police said.

"Police consider Echaabi a lone wolf, recruited by terrorist networks and self-radicalized via the Internet," much like the 23-year-old Merah, the statement said.

"Police surveillance and the activities he carried out revealed his intention to commit terrorist acts against certain people and other targets, in accordance with the doctrine of global jihad, in Spain and other European countries."

Police made no material link between Echaabi and Merah, who was shot dead by police in a siege at his home last March.

Spanish authorities last year said Merah had been to Spain in 2007. Media reported that he took part in events at Mosques in the northeastern region of Catalonia.

Several suspected Islamic extremists have been arrested in recent years in Spain, which in 2004 suffered one of Europe's worst extremist attacks.

On March 11, 2004, bombs exploded on packed commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people and wounding 1,841 others in attacks linked to the al-Qaida network.

Twenty-one people, mostly Moroccans, were convicted of involvement in those attacks.

In March, police in Valencia arrested Mudhar Hussein Almalki, a Saudi dubbed "al-Qaida's librarian". He was suspected of running jihadist Internet forums and sharing documents with extremists.

In August, Spanish authorities said they arrested two Chechens and a Turk, suspected al-Qaida members thought to have been planning an attack in Spain or elsewhere in Europe.

Police said those suspects had enough explosives to blow up a bus.

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