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Spain says police moved against Islamic suicide cell even though it lacked bombs
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    MADRID, Spain — Police acting on a tipoff that a radical Islamic group was plotting suicide attacks in Barcelona moved against the cell last week even though it had not amassed enough explosives to make bombs, Spain’s police chief said Thursday.
    ‘‘They had the will but not the means,’’ National Police chief Joan Mesquida said a day after a judge in Madrid sent 10 suspects to jail pending further investigation.
    Judge Ismael Moreno said the cell had been planning suicide attacks last weekend on the public transport network in Barcelona, Spain’s second-largest city.
    The 10 suspects are nine Pakistanis and one Indian. They were among 14 men arrested Saturday; police freed two and the judge two more.
    ‘‘In the case of Barcelona, the existence of a suicide profile is what made us take steps immediately in the operation,’’ Mesquida told Spanish Television. ‘‘We can’t take the risk of carrying out the investigation with suicide bombers and in any given moment there is an attack.’’
    The judge said that of the 10 people he is ordering kept in custody, three were planning to stage suicide attacks. Two others were described as ideologues and operational chiefs of the group. The others were jailed on suspicion of belonging to a terrorist organization.
    In a 72-page ruling, the judge said the cell was operational in terms of manpower and ‘‘very close to achieving full technical capacity in terms of explosive devices.’’
    The cell allegedly had detonators and a small amount of explosives — not enough to carry out a major attack, but perhaps enough for ‘‘the teaching of how to handle homemade explosive devices that would limit risk to the safety of the handlers.’’
    ‘‘The members of the terrorist cell that was broken up planned to carry out several suicide terrorist attacks last weekend against public transport in the city of Barcelona,’’ Moreno wrote.
    The judge’s order stops short of a formal indictment. It allows authorities to keep the suspects in jail while authorities gather more evidence for possible formal charges.
    He said his decision was based in part on testimony from a protected witness.
    The judge identified the three alleged suicide bombers as Mohamed Shoaib, Mehmooh Khalib and Imran Cheema. He said they had arrived in Barcelona from Pakistan some time between October and mid-January. The judge said it was common for suicide attackers to arrive at their targeted site shortly before a planned attack.
    Moreno did not specify what part of Barcelona’s public transport network was being targeted, but police said Thursday the targets apparently would have included the subway.
    Islamic militants targeted the Madrid commuter rail network in March 11, 2004, setting off bombs that killed 191 people and injured more than 1,800. Late last year 21 of 28 suspects who went on trial were convicted of terrorism and other charges in connection with the bombings.
    Moreno identified the ideologues in the new alleged plot as Maroof Ahmed Mirza, 38, and Mohammad Ayud Elahi Bibi, 63. He said the former was the main religious leader and organizer of the cell.
    The five other men sent to jail were named as Mohamed Tarik, Qadeer Malik, Hafeez Ahmed, Roshan Jamal Khan and Shaib Iqbal.
    Nine are Pakistanis; Khan is Indian.

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