'Major al-Qaeda attack foiled'

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar says police have thwarted a “major terrorist attack”, following the arrest of 16 suspected al-Qaeda militants in the north-eastern Catalonia region.

Mr Aznar described the arrests as an extraordinarily important strike in the war against terror, adding that explosives and chemical materials were seized. Two barrels were causing particular concern, with some unconfirmed reports in the Spanish media saying they contained the deadly poison ricin. However, BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says it will take some time for the substance to be identified. More than 150 anti-terrorist police agents took part in the pre-dawn swoop against the suspected al-Qaeda cells in more than a dozen apartments in Barcelona and elsewhere in Catalonia. The arrests come two days after an operation in Italy to arrest five Moroccans on charges of illegal possession of explosives. Full Story

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