Barcelona, Feb 10 : Spanish, American and other European officials have said that the plot to bomb Spain was indicative of the growing terror threat from Pakistan migrating to Europe, the New York Times (NYT) reported.
Spain's military police swooped into the neighborhood of Raval district in Barcelona in the early hours of January 19 and arrested 14 men. Now the officials unraveling the case say that it demonstrates the growing threat of terrorist activities migrating to Continental Europe from Pakistan.
"That these people were ready to go into action as terrorists in Spain - that came as a surprise," said Judge Baltasar Garz¢n, Spain's highest anti-terrorism magistrate.
"In my opinion, the jihadi threat from Pakistan is the biggest emerging threat we are facing in Europe. Pakistan is an ideological and training hotbed for jihadis, and they are being exported here," he added.
Officials say the Barcelona case points to a more serious dynamic: Pakistanis with no apparent previous links to Europe who appear to have been sent there on a terrorist mission.
"We had 20 terrorists show up in Spain that had been trained in Pakistan that were going to be suicide bombers, fanning out over Europe," said Mike McConnell, US National Intelligence Director.
Although some of the suspects had in fact been living in Spain, McConnell's remarks underscored statements by the Spanish authorities that in addition to the 14 suspects who had been arrested, others had eluded arrest.
The police here arrested Asim for plotting suicide bombings, who had come from the Pakistani tribal areas where Al Qaeda is said to have regrouped.
Asim told Spanish investigators that the suspects envisioned a wave of spectacular attacks: Coordinated suicide bombings would start in this city's vast subway system and then sweep through Portugal, Germany, France and Britain if certain demands were not met.
Asim had been sent to Spain to be a suicide bomber, but he also was an informant for French intelligence working in the no man's land of Waziristan in Pakistan, the NYT reported.
According to the arrest warrant in the case, three suicide bombing suspects arrived in Spain within the last four months and the bomb-making suspect had recently spent five months in Pakistan.
With Spain preparing for elections next month, the suspected plot was an eerie echo of the March 11, 2004, Madrid transit bombings, which killed 191 people just days before the last election.
That threat has been felt elsewhere. Two of four suicide bombers who attacked London's transit system in July 2005 had trained at a camp in Pakistan.
Four of the five British men convicted last April in a plot to blow up targets in London using fertilizer bombs were of Pakistani origin and some had trained at a makeshift terrorist camp there.
Last September, when the German authorities broke up what they suspected was a plot to bomb an American Air Force base and the Frankfurt airport; they said three of the suspects, two of them German citizens, had trained at terrorist camps in Pakistan.
In late 2004, the police arrested 11 Pakistani men on suspicion of plotting to attack two landmark buildings in Barcelona, financing terrorism and drug trafficking, although only six were convicted, two for document forgery.