MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish police have arrested an alleged Islamist militant wanted by the FBI for conspiracy in a foiled plot to murder a Swedish cartoonist whose depiction of the Prophet Mohammad caused outrage in the Muslim world, an official said.
Police in the northeastern region of Catalonia arrested Ali Charef Damache, who has dual Algerian-Irish nationality, after receiving information he was in Barcelona, Jordi Jane, a Catalan official in charge of security, said in a statement.
Colleen LaRose, a Pennsylvania woman who called herself Jihad Jane, is serving a 10-year sentence for conspiring, allegedly with Damache, to try to kill Swedish artist Lars Vilks, whose depiction of Mohammad with the body of a dog triggered huge Muslim protests.
U.S. authorities say Damache lured her to Ireland to train her for her part in the plot, a contention supported by LaRose in interviews with Reuters.
Patty Hartman, a spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department in Philadelphia, where the charges against Damache are lodged, said the United States would seek his extradition.
Damache was arrested in March 2010 in Ireland, where he faced U.S. extradition proceedings. But he walked free in May this year when an Irish High Court judge ruled against his extradition because of concerns about what prison conditions he would face if sent to the United States.
Known by his online username “Black Flag”, Damache is accused by U.S. authorities of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists - specifically, by luring two American-born women Muslim converts to Ireland in 2009 - and attempted identity theft to facilitate an act of terrorism.
While being held in Ireland, Damache filed a damages suit against the Irish state, saying his prison conditions were “not even suitable for animals”.
Jane, the Catalan official, said Damache was suspected of being an Al Qaeda recruiter and faced a maximum U.S. jail term of 45 years if convicted.
He said Damache constantly changed address during his stay in Barcelona, passing no more than two or three nights in different hostels in the city. He said, however, that Damache had committed no crime in Spain.
A Spanish court ordered that Damache be provisionally jailed pending U.S. extradition proceedings.
Reporting by Adrian Croft, Inmaculada Sanz and John Shiffman; Editing by Richard Balmforth