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Ex-militant held in Spain wanted to commit suicide attack

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Madrid (AFP)

A former anti-ETA militant arrested this week in Spain for allegedly disseminating jihadist propaganda had said he wanted to self-immolate in a bus, a court document revealed Friday.

Daniel Fernandez Acena, who served time in jail for the murder of a French railway worker in 1984 as part of the GAL death squads set up to fight ETA Basque separatists, was detained on Tuesday in Segovia near Madrid.

In a document ordering that he be remanded in custody, a Madrid court said police had "detected continuous allusions to... 'wanting to travel to Afghanistan' and even his 'intention to self-immolate in a bus in Segovia'."

The court based this on phone taps on the suspect, whose social media activity was also closely followed by police before being arrested.

The document said he had "clear intentions to commit a terrorist act," adding Fernandez Acena had converted to Islam after "abandoning his previous life of Western 'sin'."

"He displayed to various people his intention to commit a suicide attack in the name of a jihadist terrorist organisation," it said.

However there was no mention of other, more concrete elements that would suggest the suspect was ready to act, such as buying weapons, explosives, or inflammable substances.

The interior ministry said Tuesday that Fernandez Acena had travelled "to war zones in Afghanistan, Syria and Palestine," but this was not mentioned in the court document.

Questioned by a judge on Thursday, Fernandez Acena resorted to "his right to remain silent."

The suspect was once part of the GAL -- secret armed squads set up to fight ETA, which long waged a violent campaign for independence for the Basque Country.

The murder of Jean-Pierre Leiba, the French railway worker, was by mistake.

He was killed in Hendaye in southwestern France while he was with three Basques.

The GAL -- meaning Anti-Terrorist Liberation Groups -- were accused of 28 killings between 1983 and 1987, most of them in the French Basque region.

According to Spanish authorities, 173 alleged jihadists have been detained since 2015, when Spain increased its terror alert to four out of five.

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