Jan. 25, 2008 -- ABC News has learned that the manhunt that began in Spain for suspected terror cell members has now extended to France and other European Union countries.
The attorney general in Spain said today that there are three cell members they are urgently searching for and that the missing members could be suicidal terrorists with a mission to attack somewhere outside of Spain.
Investigative sources tell ABC News the cell members are Spanish residents, including both nationals and foreigners. They are believed to have recently traveled to Spain from Waziristan, Pakistan, an area known as a hotbed for al Qaeda training and Taliban resurgence.
The 14 suspected terrorists arrested last weekend in Spain were in the final stages of preparing a suicide attack using multiple bombs, according to sources close to the investigation being conducted by Spanish Central Intelligence (CNI) and the Guardia Civil Islamic Counterterrorist Unit.
The men were of Pakistani, Indian and other ethnic backgrounds. Many appear to be legal residents of Spain, but some of the suspects' legal statuses are still unknown. One of the men arrested, Maroof Ahmaed Mirza, is described as an Imam, a legal resident of Spain and a Pakistani national.
The raids capped what was known as Operation Cantata and took place in the Raval neighborhood of Barcelona after authorities established the readiness of the group based on intercepts and informant information, sources told ABCNews.com.
Seven searches were conducted, including searches of two mosques, according to police reports. Investigators seized four timers, described as "mechanical clocks without numbered spheres," various empty pyrotechnic cartridges, multi-colored wires, latex gloves, kitchen gloves, severe batteries of varying voltages, cables used for detonators and other various materials, according to an inventory of the searches.
Spanish authorities believe the intended target was the Barcelona subway system and that the plot would have used two to four suicide bombers wearing explosive vests that were to be detonated simultaneously while another plotter detonated three to four more devices placed in the subway, investigative sources told ABC News. The Barcelona rapid transit system has 150 stations along nine lines and runs over 71 miles. It serves 1.6 million residents in Spain's second largest city.
"For this reason, the Barcelona rail system makes a great target for the Islamic radicals coming to Spain," said a source close to the case. "The (Raval) area of Barcelona has become a great location for the al Qaeda cells for recruitment, financial support and possible targets."
This post has been updated.