- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 16, 2005

MADRID — Reports of purported CIA use of Spain as a stopover point for transporting suspected Islamist terrorists spread yesterday to the Canary Islands, where the regional government said it had asked Madrid to explain whether airports there were also used for covert missions.

The Spanish archipelago off west Africa joins the Mediterranean island of Mallorca in the controversy.

Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso said Tuesday a judge is investigating reports that at least 10 flights landed in Mallorca as part of the CIA’s program of “extraordinary rendition,” in which suspected terrorists are taken without court approval to third countries for questioning and possibly subjected to ill treatment.

The Canary Islands government said yesterday that in May it had asked the central government to explain local newspaper reports that suspected CIA planes had made stopovers five times on the island of Tenerife between March 2004 and May 2005.

“But we never got an answer back, or just a vague answer that the government had no evidence. Now we want to ask again for those explanations,” Miguel Becerra, a spokesman for the Canary Islands government, said in a telephone interview.

The Mallorca flights came to light in a report prepared in April by the Civil Guard, a paramilitary police unit that answers to the Interior Ministry, after a complaint was filed by a group of Mallorca residents. They acted after reading a story in a local newspaper, Diario de Mallorca, that said CIA planes had been landing and taking off from Palma, the capital of Mallorca.

Italy and Germany also are investigating the purported CIA abduction of a suspected Islamic extremist.

Italian prosecutors are seeking the extradition of 22 purported CIA operatives accused of kidnapping an Egyptian cleric, Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, in 2003 in Milan.

German prosecutors are investigating the same case on grounds that one of the CIA agents may have touched German soil when the plane carrying the suspect to Egypt passed through Ramstein Air Base. The base is considered U.S. territory.

Norway, meanwhile, said the U.S. Embassy has denied reports that an executive jet that landed at the Oslo airport in July was on a mission for the CIA or another American government agency.

Scandinavian media have speculated about possible unauthorized CIA overflights and landings in the region, prompting the Foreign Ministry to summon U.S. diplomats.

Norwegian media reports said at least four aircraft — two of them purportedly carrying Islamist extremist prisoners — had flown over or landed in Norway on CIA missions.

In Portugal, two political parties demanded an explanation from the government yesterday after a media report claimed two planes used by the CIA landed at two of its airports.

The weekly Focus reported that a Gulfstream jet and a Boeing 737-700, which it said had in the past been used by the CIA, were photographed at an international airport in Porto, northern Portugal, and at Tires, an airport near Lisbon. The report did not say when the planes landed.

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