Spain charges Russian nationals over 'al-Qaeda plot'

Police handout of three suspects arrested in Spain
Image caption The two Russian men were detained along with a Turkish national last week on suspicion of plotting an attack. The identities have not been officially released

A Spanish judge has charged two Russian men with being members of an armed terrorist organisation and possession of explosives.

The two men were detained last week along with a Turkish national, who was charged on Friday with possession of explosives.

Spain's interior minister has described the two Russians - both of Chechen origin - as suspected al-Qaeda members.

They have been jailed until a date is decided for court proceedings.

The arrests are part of one of the biggest international operations against al-Qaeda to date, Spanish officials say.

'Extremely dangerous'

The three are thought to have been planning an attack in Spain or elsewhere in Europe, according to Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz.

The suspects were "extremely dangerous people", including one who was "a very important operative in al-Qaeda's international structure", AFP news agency quoted him as saying.

Image caption Masked police escorted the two men (out of view) to court on Sunday

The Turkish national was jailed on Friday but Judge Pablo Ruz granted police 48 additional hours to provide evidence to justify the detention of the two Russian suspects, reported leading Spanish newspaper El Pais.

They were driven to court early on Sunday, escorted by masked police officers, reports said.

While authorities accuse the Russians of being al-Qaeda members, reports suggest the Turkish national - named by El Pais as Cengiz Yalcin - is suspected of being a facilitator for the group rather than a member himself.

He was detained at a flat in the southern city of La Linea, while the two Russians were picked up on Wednesday as they allegedly travelled by bus to the French border.

Previous reports quoted the Turkish citizen as saying he had befriended the two Chechen suspects in Turkey and that they had come to Spain for the purpose of seeking asylum.

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