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'Indians held after Madrid blast freed'

Indian Ambassador in New York said the two were held not for terrorist activity, but for mobile phone scam.
PTI | By Vijay Dutt, London
PUBLISHED ON APR 14, 2004 02:10 PM IST

The two Indians held for their suspected role in the Madrid carnage have reportedly been released from custody even as the massive probe into the Madrid bombings sharpens its focus on Al-Qaeda terrorist cells. Police have reportedly also identified five new Moroccan suspects.

The Indian diaspora the world over had seemingly been acutely concerned whether the two persons of Indian-origin arrested in connection with the Madrid train carnage had links with Al-Qaeda.

In Britain, calls were received from members of the Indian community by Indian media persons seeking clarification. Some organisations also asked BBC and other channels to confirm whether the two arrested were Indian Hindus before broadcasting the report from Madrid.

Confusion prevailed specially because the Indian Embassy in Madrid was apparently stalling and giving out no details. The report in the Hindustan Times, giving details the following morning, about the two arrested Indians helped clear confusion to a large extent.

The concern has been equally deep in other European cities, particularly in Berlin, Paris and Brussels. Hindustan Times in London received calls from Berlin -- first to find out details and later to thank for the information published in the daily.

Dr Bhishma Agnihotri, Ambassador at Large for PIOs and NRIs based in New York also informed that he had been receiving numerous calls about the arrests. Callers were assured by him that "the two Indians arrested by the Spanish authorities are not arrested for their involvement in any kind of terrorist activities. They were arrested for their alleged involvement in selling mobile phone cards."

There are no requirements for checking the identities of the buyers while selling mobile phone cards. Obviously, the arrested Indian individuals had not checked the background of the buyers while conducting the transactions. This
must be brought to the notice of all and publicised widely, he said.

"It is well known that members of the Indian diaspora world over are law-abiding and are totally against any terrorist activities anywhere in the world."

The members of Indian diaspora in Spain who are very active, prosperous and well-settled are reportedly shocked. The Embassy of India in Madrid is said to be in constant touch with Spanish authorities and is seeking all the details so
that they could establish consular access with the arrested individuals and also help Spanish authorities in their investigation.

Until Monday, consular access could not be established, possibly because of the change of the government, according to reports. Most in senior positions in ministeries are political appointees.

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