Spain Charges 29 In Madrid Bombings
A Spanish judge has charged 29 people in the 2004 Madrid bombings in the culmination of a two year investigation that concluded that the bombings weren’t the work of Al Qaeda but of some extremists responding to a local website:
The March 11 attacks, for which Islamist militants claimed responsibility, killed 191 people and injured more than 1,700. Six of the 29 men were charged with 191 counts of murder and 1,755 counts of attempted murder.
Juan del Olmo, the investigative judge, concluded that the bombings had been carried out by an independent local cell of Islamist militants inspired but not directed by al-Qaida.
“It took its inspiration from a website that called on local Islamists to stage attacks in Spain before the 2004 general elections to prompt withdrawal of troops from Iraq,” a spokeswoman for the judge told Reuters.
The actual impact: in the end the bombers actually achieved their goals. The bombing took place close to elections and when the ruling Popular Party government blamed it on the Basque separatist ETA it sparked a new controversy. The Socialists were finally elected and, in the end, Spain withdrew its troops. Some more details:
[Judge Juan del Olmo]head of Spain’s highest criminal court, believed two people, Jamal Ahmidan and Serhane Ben Abdelmajid Fakhet, who died along with five accomplices in carrying out the bombings, directed the attacks.
The two men were “inspired” by recommendations published on the internet from senior al-Qaeda members.
The latter encouraged attacks in Spain ahead of its general election in March 2004 to force it to withdraw military support for the United States-led occupation of Iraq.
The bombings on March 11 2004 produced a surprise election defeat three days later for the prime minister Jose Maria Aznar and his ruling conservative Popular Party (PP).
Del Olmo also rejected claims made by Aznar’s government in the aftermath of the attacks that they were the work of armed Basque separatist group ETA.
The PP and right-wing newspaper El Mundo continued to suggest ETA involvement, despite evidence pointing to Islamic extremists.
More details on today’s charges:
Five people were charged with killing 191 and injuring nearly 2,000 people in the bombings of four Madrid commuter trains on March 11, 2004.
They included Moroccan Jamal Zougam, identified by eyewitnesses as having been on one of the targeted trains; Youssef Belhadj, who had rented the flat in Leganes near Madrid where seven terrorists blew themselves up three weeks after the bombings; and Abdelmajid Bouchar, who escaped from that flat and was arrested in Serbia.
The two others are presumed ideologists and planners Rabei Osman al-Sayed Ahman alias The Egyptian, captured in Italy, and Hassan al- Haski, a leader of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM).
Spanish former miner Emilio Suarez Trashorras, who provided the terrorists with explosives, was also charged with responsibility for the deaths.
Basel Ghalyoun, Larbi Ben Selam, Mohannad Almallah and Fouad al- Morabit were charged with belonging to a terrorist organization.
Ten people were charged with collaborating with a terrorist organization, including Suarez Trashorras and Moroccan police informer Rafa Zouhier.
Del Olmo said the cell was directed by Moroccan Jamal Ahmidan and Tunisian Serhane ben Abdelmajid, who blew themselves up in Leganes. The judge believes the terrorists were inspired, but not given direct orders by al-Qaeda.
Twenty-five of those charged are in jail while the rest have been provisionally released. The remaining 87 suspects will probably not be charged, but some of them could be heard as witnesses during the mega-trial expected to start at spring.
So, in the end, it did not prove to be an intricate Al Qaeda plot. But this case points out the negative role of the Internet in the power of a website issuing what is in-effect a call to arms…and some people quickly rallying to it. Ever worse news: this attack didn’t require a huge number of people to carry out bombings that wiped our a large number of people. It impacted Spain’s elections (due to the ruling party’s poor response) in a way that eventually influenced Spain’s foreign policy.