A US citizen of Algerian origin suspected of financing al-Qaida’s North African offshoot has been arrested in Spain, officials said today.

Mohamed Omar Debhi, 43, was arrested near Barcelona.

He is suspected of laundering money and sending some of it to an associate in Algeria, Toufik Mizi, for it to be passed on to cells of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, the interior ministry said.

Mizi is wanted in Spain after escaping a police raid in 2008.

The ministry said Debhi used bank transfers or human couriers to send Mizi amounts in excess of £50,000 (€58,041), although it did not specify how much was sent altogether.

It said Debhi was “linked to crimes of financing terrorism in the Sahel for al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb,” referring to the vast stretch of sub-Saharan territory where the terror organisation has kidnapped several Europeans and other Westerners in recent years.

Some of the money Debhi sent to Algeria was transferred under the guise of business transactions that turned out to be bogus, the ministry said.

He is also suspected of tax fraud and forgery in Spain.