Spain arrests 2 for Islamist militant funding

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MADRID, Sep 21 (Reuters) Two Pakistani men were arrested in Spain accused of channelling 1 million euros to Islamist militants, Spanish police said.

Anar Muhammad Shan and Preces Mehmood Sandhu used money from drug trafficking to fund radical groups in Spain and abroad, a police statement said yesterday.

They were detained in Madrid and Barcelona after a three year operation by Spanish National Police and the US Federal Bureau of Intelligence.

Shan and Sandhu used the so-called hawala financial transfer system that allows funds to be exchanged with a handshake, piece of paper or on trust and leaves few clues, Spanish police said.

The arrests came on the same day as an al Qaeda videotaped message urging North African Muslims to ''cleanse'' their land of Spaniards and French.

Al Qaeda's second in command also called on supporters to restore al-Andalus, the Arabic name for parts of the Iberian peninsula formerly under Muslim rule.

In the past year police have arrested around 20 suspected Islamic militants in mainland Spain and the country's North African enclaves.

A group inspired by al Qaeda is thought to have carried out the March 11, 2004, bombings of Madrid commuter trains that killed 191 people.

Spain has launched several major investigations into al Qaeda activity and 28, mainly Moroccan suspects, face sentencing after going on trial this year for the Madrid bombings.

REUTERS AK BST0435

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