Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said the detainees were Islamists belonging to a “well-organized group that had gone a step beyond radicalization.”
A Muslim leader in Barcelona was quoted in some media reports as saying the 14 suspects — 12 Pakistanis, an Indian and a Bangladeshi — were members of a “Pakistani-based group called Tablighi Jamaat.”
TheTablighi Jamaat (TJ) name has come up before in connection with terrorism plots, including the October 2002 Portland Seven and the September 2002 Lackawanna Six cases in the United States, as well as the August 2006 plot to bomb airliners en route from London to the United States, the July 7, 2005, London Underground bombings and the July 2007 attempted bombings in London and Glasgow, Scotland.
Over the past several years we also have received several queries about TJ from U.S. law enforcement officials who are concerned about the group’s presence and activities in the United States.
U.S. and British intelligence authorities, citing a number of cases, contend that the Tablighis have direct ties to al Qaeda. For instance, at least two of the suicide bombers who attacked the London Underground on July 7, 2005, had worshipped at the Tablighi-run Markazi mosque in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire (the group's European headquarters).
Additionally, several of those arrested Aug. 9, 2006, in connection with an alleged plot to blow up airliners en route from London to the United States had attended Tablighi study sessions in the United Kingdom, while failed "shoe bomber" Richard Reid is known to have Tablighi associations.
Then there is the connection to the Tablighi-run Hamza mosque by at least one of the suspects in the plot to behead a Muslim soldier in Britain -- though there are claims that most of the nine suspects in the case had attended the mosque. Also, according to French intelligence reports, up to 80 percent of Islamist extremists in France have passed through the Tablighi system at some point.
These supposed links are not limited to Europe. By some estimates, Tablighi Jamaat has a 50,000-strong following in the United States. Indeed, Tablighi mosques currently operate in several U.S. States, including California, Texas and New York, while the Masjid Al-Falah mosque in the Corona area of Queens, N.Y., apparently is the group's North American headquarters, see photo above.
John Walker Lindh traveled with Tablighi preachers to Pakistan in 1998 to further his Islamic studies before joining the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan. Also, the Buffalo cell, otherwise known as theLackawanna Six, that was convicted of providing material support to al Qaeda and the Oregon cell that conspired to bomb a synagogue and was charged with providing material support to al Qaeda were both involved in Tablighi missionaries.