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Last Updated: Monday, 6 November 2006, 14:51 GMT
Madrid train bombs suspect jailed
Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed in Milan's court
Ahmed denied that he belonged to a terror cell
A leading suspect in the 2004 Madrid train bombings has been sentenced to 10 years in prison by an Italian court on terrorism charges.

Prosecutors in Milan had argued that Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed, 35, had ties to a terror cell whose reach extended throughout Europe and to Iraq.

He is also suspected of involvement in the Madrid attacks, in which 191 people were killed.

The court was told he had contacts with the group said to be behind the blasts.

A second co-defendant, Yahia Ragheh, who had lived with Ahmed and who police believe was being groomed to become a suicide bomber, was sentenced to five years.

'It's my work'

Ahmed, also known as "Mohammed the Egyptian", arrived in Madrid just before the 11 September attacks in the US, prosecutors said.

Train wreckage from one of the 11 March 2004 blasts in Madrid
The Madrid bombings trial is set to begin in February

They said he then established close contact with a Madrid cell suspected of blowing up trains in Madrid.

Ahmed is alleged to have spent 18 months in Spain, sharing his expert knowledge of explosives.

When police raided an apartment of one of the key suspects in the Madrid, it was Ahmed's mobile phone number they found.

In April 2004, Italian police bugged Ahmed's apartment and he was arrested soon afterwards.

In transcripts of recorded conversation, Ahmed reacts with joy while watching a video of the beheading of the American hostage Nick Berg in Iraq.

In later conversations, he told Ragheh that he was the thread to the Madrid bombings.

"It's my work. The project took a lot of studying and a lot of patience. It took me two-and-a-half years," he said.

Ahmed was arrested as police in Italy grew worried that he was planning another Madrid-style attack in Belgium.

Spanish police, who tipped off Italian investigators, have never identified Ahmed as one of the masterminds of the Madrid bombings, but he is due go on trial in February along with 21 others.

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