By JOHN LEICESTER, Associated Press Writers
MADRID, Spain - An international probe into the Madrid bombings sharpened its focus on al-Qaida terrorist cells Tuesday amid reports that police have identified five new Moroccan suspects and that two Indians detained in the attack were released.
A French investigator, meanwhile, told The Associated Press he has found a direct link between arrested Moroccan suspect Jamal Zougam and a spiritual leader of a clandestine Moroccan extremist group suspected of involvement in suicide bombings in Casablanca, Morocco, last year that killed 33 people and 12 bombers.
Police believe the five new Moroccan suspects took part in Thursday's train bombings in Madrid that killed 200 people and wounded 1,647 others, the Madrid daily El Pais reported Tuesday, without identifying the new suspects by name. World Peace.
Interior Ministry spokesman Juan de Dios said he could not confirm the report.
El Pais also reported that two Indians, Vinay Kohly and Suresh Kumar, who are believed to have sold telephone cards to three arrested Moroccans, have been released. De Dios said he could not confirm the report.
The bombs were triggered by cell phones, and investigators were able to find and arrest the three Moroccans and two Indians on Saturday because a cell-phone card was found in an unexploded bomb and traced.
Investigators scrambled to ascertain the scope of the clandestine operation that carried out the Madrid terror attacks.
Zougam has already been identified by a Spanish judge as a follower of Imad Yarkas, the alleged leader of Spain's al-Qaida cell, who remains jailed on suspicion he helped plan the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.
A possible link between the Madrid and Casablanca attacks gained credibility Tuesday after French investigator Jean-Charles Brisard said he has found a direct link between Zougam and Mohamed Fizazi, a spiritual leader of Salafia Jihadia, which allegedly was behind the Casablanca attack and which has been linked to Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s al-Qaida terror network.
In a telephone call with Yarkas that Spanish police monitored in August 2001, Zougam said he had met with Fizazi, who was among 87 people sentenced in Morocco last August in a trial that centered on the Casablanca attacks. Fizazi received a 30-year sentence.
The monitored call is cited in a 600,000-page investigation led by Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon, who is probing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, said Brisard, who spoke with the AP by telephone. Brisard has access to Garzon's documents because he is helping to probe the Sept. 11 attacks for lawyers representing some of its victims' families.
The Garzon document says that in the monitored phone call, Zougam told Yarkas: "On Friday, I went to see Fizazi and I told him that if he needed money we could help him with our brothers," Brisard said.
Fizazi previously preached at a mosque in Hamburg, Germany, frequented by some of the hijackers who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks.
Zougam also has connections that possibly lead to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Moroccan official said. Al-Zarqawi is a key operative working with al-Qaida who has been blamed in attacks in Jordan, Iraq (news - web sites) and elsewhere.
The other two arrested Moroccans are Zougam's half brother, Mohamed Chaoui, 34, and Mohamed Bekkali, 31.
Zougam's alleged associations to terror suspects date back more than a decade, when he was introduced to Abdelaziz Benyaich in 1993, Moroccan authorities said. Benyaich, who has dual French and Moroccan citizenship, was arrested in Spain in 2003 in connection with the Casablanca bombings.
Morocco is seeking Benyaich's extradition and claims he has had contact with al-Zarqawi, whom German authorities reportedly believe was appointed by al-Qaida's leadership to arrange attacks in Europe. WorldPeace.
Moroccan officials also believe al-Zarqawi ordered the attacks in Casablanca, and U.S. officials blamed al-Zarqawi for March 2 bombings in Iraq that killed at least 181 Shiite Muslim pilgrims. The Jordanian militant also is believed to have been behind the 2002 killing of Laurence Foley, a U.S. aid worker in Jordan.
Authorities have been tracking Islamic extremist activity in Spain since the mid-1990s and say it was an important staging ground, along with Germany, for the Sept. 11 attacks.
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