"They didn't live in this village. They were just passing through, asking where to find a mechanic to mend their car, and then the police came and took them away," said a witness to the arrest in the village of La Mojonera, in Valencia.
They were traveling with forged passports and sophisticated computer equipment for producing such documents, as well as airline tickets for trips to Algeria and France, authorities said.
One of the cell's main tasks in Spain was to obtain optical, electronic, computer and communications equipment and send it to colleagues in Algeria, Rajoy said.
The six also produced false documents to help other members of the group to travel undetected and produced bogus credit cards to finance their activities, Spanish authorities said.
Spanish officials say Mohamed Atta, believed to have piloted one of the airliners that crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, was in Spain in July and may have met then with other Islamic extremists.
New Arrests in Possible Truck Terror Plot
Meanwhile, in the United States, nine individuals were arrested today on charges of fraudulently obtaining licenses to transport hazardous materials. The arrests come as the FBI is increasingly concerned there may be terrorists in the United States planning to attack Americans, using large tanker trucks hauling lethal payloads.
"Our investigation has uncovered several individuals — including individuals who may have links to the hijackers — who fraudulently have obtained or attempted to obtain hazardous material transportation licenses," Attorney General John Ashcroft told lawmakers.
Three individuals — Mustafa Al-Aboody, Haider Al-Tamimi and Ali Al-Azawi, aka Al-Gazawi — were arrested in Seattle; one man, Wather Al-Atabi, was arrested in Kansas City, Mo.; and four people were taken into custody in Detroit. The location of the ninth arrest was not immediately known.
All nine are linked to a Department of Motor Vehicle agent in Pittsburgh who has admitted providing up to 30 fraudulent commercial driver's licenses to people of Middle Eastern descent between July 8, 1999 and Feb. 4, 2000 in exchange for $50-$100 bribes. Court documents released today showed investigators had confirmed that 20 male individuals obtained licenses and 18 had obtained hazmat endorsements.
The string of arrests comes a week after the FBI arrested Nabil Al-Marabh, who also had obtained a hazmat license. Al-Marabh has been linked to Osama bin Laden's failed plot to kill American tourists in Jordan during the millennium celebration and investigators believe he has ties to at least two of the hijackers from the Sept. 11 attacks. He was taken into custody in Burbank, Ill., just outside Chicago.
Two of three men arrested at Al-Marabh's apartment in Detroit last week — Karim Koubriti and Ahmed Hannan — had also attended a truck-driving school. Koubriti obtained a hazmat license.
It was not known whether the men arrested today also had ties to the hijackers.
The Department of Transportation has alerted the trucking industry to "be aware that numerous terrorist threats have been reported since Sept. 11, including unconfirmed reporting regarding potential use of chemical, biological, and/or radiological/nuclear [weapons of mass destruction]."
And the National Tank Truck Carriers association is urging its members to double-check the background and qualifications of any drivers who have received their hazmat endorsement in the last two years.