Two assumed jihadists arrested on Spanish soil were in Brussels during attacks
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    Two assumed jihadists arrested on Spanish soil were in Brussels during attacks

    Two presumed jihadists, arrested on Tuesday in Spain, admitted being at Brussels Airport during the bloody March 2016 attacks. The Spanish courts announced yesterday that these men deny all involvement in those attacks. Mohamed Lamsalak and Youssef Ben Hammou “admitted that they were at the airport when the bombs exploded. They deny all involvement in the incident.” A spokesman from the Spanish High Court, with special jurisdiction, notably in terrorist incidents, stated this. The men had a hearing yesterday (Thursday) before a judge in the court.

    The two men were part of a group of nine people arrested for questioning between Monday night and Tuesday morning in Barcelona and its environs. This came after an inquiry conducted in conjunction with the Belgian courts. This revealed possible links between this group and individuals identified within the inquiry on the attacks.

    On March 22nd, 2016, these attacks, which Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for, caused a combined total of 32 deaths in the airport and in the Brussels metro.

    On Tuesday the police indicated that the group comprised eight Moroccans and one Spaniard. Mohamed Lamsalak and Youssef Ben Hammou, whose nationality was not confirmed by the judicial source, had a hearing yesterday (Thursday) in the presence of a Spanish investigating judge, Eloy Velasco. A Belgian judge who is in charge of the investigation into the Brussels attacks was also present. This came after the men were held for two days in police custody.

    The spokesman said that the inquiry had enabled investigators to establish that the men were in Brussels between March 16th, 2016 and March 23rd. The 23rd was, of course, the day following the attacks when they left. The source explained, “They maintained that they went to Brussels to buy a car.”

    He went on, “The investigators are trying to determine whether the money (intended for the purchase) may have served in any way to finance the attack or to facilitate subsequent logistics.”

    The Spanish courts added that the two men, prosecuted for “belonging to a terrorist organisation”, also admitted that during this stay they were with “a cousin of the alleged perpetrators. These were the two brothers who sacrificed their own lives in the attacks.”

    Firearms, computer hardware, money and drugs were seized in around a dozen searches, which took place when the men were arrested for questioning.

    Spain, the third largest global tourist destination has been spared IS attacks so far. These have notably affected Paris, Brussels and Berlin. However, Spain was hit in 2004 by the bloodiest Islamist attacks committed on European soil. On that occasion, around twelve bombs exploded in trains within the suburbs of Madrid causing 191 deaths. Responsibility for that attack was claimed by an Islamist cell of Al Qaeda.

    Christopher Vincent
    The Brussels Times