MADRID - Spanish police on Friday arrested 12 people with suspected links to Islamic extremist movements and those who carried out the Madrid train bombings last year, the interior ministry announced.
The ministry said four of those arrested had close ties to Youssef Belhadj, the man believed to be Al-Qaeda's spokesman in Europe who was extradited Friday from Belgium to Spain on suspicion of involvement in the March 2004 attacks.
The ministry added that six of those detained in the operation involving around 100 police officers were Moroccans.
Three were Syrians, one an Egyptian, another a Palestinian and one an Algerian, the ministry said.
They are suspected of "being linked to Islamic terrorism and with those behind the March 11 attacks in Madrid," a ministry statement read.
A total of 191 people died in the coordinated bombings of four commuter trains in Spain's worst ever terrorist attack, blamed on mainly Moroccan Islamic radicals linked to Al-Qaeda.
The Spanish judiciary has thus far identified 74 people whom they believe were involved in the attacks. Twenty-four of them, most of them Moroccans, are currently in custody facing charges.
Four of the six Moroccans arrested Friday are brothers, the ministry revealed, naming them as Mhamed, Driss, Hassan and Mohamed Haddad, all believed to have received their compatriot Belhadj at their home in July 2003.
Belhadj appeared on a video which surfaced shortly after the attacks claiming responsibility for them in the name of Al-Qaeda.
Other suspects arrested Friday are thought to be linked to Serhane Ben Abdelmajid Fakhet, nicknamed "The Tunisian," considered the mastermind behind the attacks and one of seven suspects who blew themselves up rather than face capture in a police raid on a flat in a Madrid suburb last April.