April 10, 2015 / 5:49 PM / 2 years ago

Islamists arrested in Spain eyed attacks on synagogues, authorities: court

MADRID (Reuters) - Members of a suspected militant Islamist cell arrested this week in Spain were trying to obtain explosives to bomb a Jewish bookshop in Barcelona, an investigating magistrate said on Friday.

Other potential targets of the group included synagogues and public buildings in the Catalonia region, the magistrate said in a report after receiving information from prosecutors.

The report said seven of the 11 people arrested on Wednesday in northeastern Catalonia have been put under formal investigation - a step just short of being charged - and will be held in custody awaiting trial, it added.

All but one of them is suspected of belonging to a militant cell with a profile similar to that of the Islamic State jihadist movement, while the last one is suspected of aiding the cell and possessing weapons and explosives, it said.

Three other arrested persons have been granted a conditional release and a fourth is a minor and will spend six months in a youth reform center.

Spain has been cracking down on suspected militants in the wake of the January Islamist attacks on French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris that killed 17 people. More than 30 people have been arrested so far this year in Spain.

One of those detained in Catalonia, described as the cell’s founder, had told members he had been “about to attack a Jewish bookshop in Barcelona”, the magistrate said in the report.

The person had also wanted to kidnap a bank branch manager and had suggested attacking synagogues and state security forces such as police and the Catalan parliament. The attackers were to hide in a van, armed with hand grenades and guns.

Authorities found 25 empty bags belonging to one of the people that contained traces of chemicals that could be used to make explosives, the report said.

Reporting by Sarah White and Inmaculada Sanz; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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