15 arrested in search for Casablanca bombers

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The Independent Online

Fifteen people arrested in dawn raids in the Paris area yesterday are suspected of involvement with a Moroccan Islamist group linked to the Madrid train bombings.

Fifteen people arrested in dawn raids in the Paris area yesterday are suspected of involvement with a Moroccan Islamist group linked to the Madrid train bombings.

French authorities said the arrests were connected to the suicide bombings in Casablanca in May last year, which killed 45, including three French people. They said there was no direct connection with the Madrid bombings, although the same organisation - the Groupe Islamique Combattant Marocain - was believed by Spanish investigators to be involved. Six members of the group, including a man named Moustapha Baouchi, who is the subject of an international arrest warrant for the Casablanca bombings, are thought to be among the nine men and six women held yesterday. The others are acquaintances or spouses of the six. Two people were freed last night but their identities have been withheld.

"We have no information suggesting that a terrorist attack was being prepared in France," an investigator told the newspaper Le Monde.

Of the six suspected members of the Islamist Moroccan cell, four are French citizens and two were illegal immigrants to France. All were said to be "Afghan veterans", who have been in Afghan training camps.

The suspects can be held for up to 96 hours without being formally placed under investigation, the final step under French law before formal charges can be pressed.

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