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Spain holds Algerians linked to bin Laden

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MADRID, Spain — Police detained six Algerians allegedly linked to Osama bin Laden and to a group suspected of planning attacks on U.S. targets in Europe, the Spanish government said Wednesday.

The six people detained Tuesday night and before dawn Wednesday belong to a dissident faction of the Armed Islamic Group, Algeria's most hard-line insurgency movement, Interior Minister Mariano Rajoy said.

The group is reportedly backed by bin Laden, the Saudi exile suspected of masterminding the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. Rajoy did not say if there was any evidence linking the Algerians to the suicide airliner attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The Algerians were picked up in the provinces of Almeria and Huelva in the south, Navarra in the north and Murcia and Valencia in the east. They have not been charged on any counts.

Spanish police were acting in coordination with colleagues in Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Britain and Belgium, Rajoy said.

The six Algerians have not been charged on any counts.

They are "directly related" to two men who belong to a group accused of planning attacks in Europe — Nizar Trabelsi, a Tunisian arrested in Belgium on Sept. 13, and Jerome Courtailler, a Frenchmen arrested in the Netherlands the same day, Rajoy said.

One of the six Algerians' main tasks in Spain was to obtain optical, electronic, computer and communications equipment and send it to colleagues in Algeria, Rajoy said. Spanish police found forged passports and sophisticated computer equipment used to produce fake documents, and airline tickets for trips to Algeria and France, he said.