Morocco detains Islamist over links to Madrid bombs


Moroccan authorities are holding a 31-year-old Moroccan Islamist suspected of links to the 2004 Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people, government officials and lawyers said earlier today.

Mohamed Belhadj is believed to have rented an apartment in Madrid where seven men, including two suspected ringleaders of the bombings, blew themselves up three weeks after the 10 bombs tore through packed commuter trains on March 11, 2004.

The Moroccan government said Belhadj had fled from Spain to Syria where he lived until Damascus extradited him to Rabat last week, Reuters adds.

“Mohamed Belhadj has been in custody at Sale prison since last Tuesday pending trial on charges of belonging to a criminal gang set up to prepare and carry out terrorist attacks, and undermine public order,” an official, who did not want to be named, said.

Moroccan lawyers said Belhadj was expected to go on trial at a criminal court in Sale, near Rabat, next month and he could be sentenced to up to 10 years in jail if the court finds him guilty.

Morocco is involved in hunting and prosecuting the Madrid bombers as the Rabat government suspects that they had a role in the 2003 Casablanca suicide bomb attacks that killed 45 people.