Madrid Terror Bombing Investigation Nets 29 suspects
April 11, 2006
April 11, 2006 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - 29 people were charged by a Spanish judge today in the March 11, 2004 Islamist terror attacks on Madrid trains, the worst such incident in Spanish history.
The bombings killed 191 and injured over 1,700 and directly led - in general elections three days later - to the ouster of the centrist Aznar government and substituted in its place one led by socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero who immediately appeased the Islamists by ordering the withdrawal of Spain's small military contingent in Iraq.
The majority of the bombing suspects are either Moroccan or Syrian Muslim immigrants, though Spanish miner José Emilio Suarez Trashorras is being charged with providing the conspirators with plastic explosives and technical assistance.
Seven ringleaders of the plot - including mastermind Sarhane Ben Abdelmajid Fakhet - committed mass suicide, blowing themselves up in a suburban Madrid apartment on April 3, three weeks after the attack in the midst of a police raid.
The 1,500 page indictment indicates that the trial will be complex and lengthy, leading to speculation that the proceeding may not commence until next year.
The investigative judge, Juan del Olmo determined that the plotters were domestic and though they took inspiration from al-Qaeda websites they were most likely not internationally directed.
29 charged over Madrid bombings
Staff and agencies
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 charges were contained in a 1,500-page indictment handed down from the national court, the hub of Spanish terrorism investigations.
The 29 charged include Jamal Zougam, a Moroccan who allegedly supplied cell phones used as detonators in the 10 backpack bombs that exploded on four crowded commuter trains.
Seven other suspects in the case - described as ringleaders who included the ideological mastermind of the attacks - blew themselves up in a suburban flat three weeks after the train blasts.
A policeman was also killed in the flat explosion, which happened when special forces who traced the men through cell phone traffic moved in to make arrests.
José Emilio Suarez Trashorras, a former miner who provided the bombers with plastic explosives, was charged with 192 counts of murder, including the death of the policeman.
The trial - which may not start until next year because of the complexity of the case - is expected to be one of Europe's biggest terrorism cases.
Twenty-four suspects - most of them Moroccan and Syrian immigrants - are in jail in Spain, another is on trial in Italy on separate terrorism-related charges, and more than 80 other people who were questioned and released are still considered suspects in Spain's worst terror attack.
Shortly after the attacks, Islamist militants claimed responsibility on behalf of al-Qaida, saying they had acted to avenge the presence of Spanish troops in Iraq.
José María Aznar, the prime minister at the time, attempted to blame the attack on the Basque separatist group Eta.
Socialists elected three days after the Madrid bombings quickly fulfilled an election campaign promise and brought the troops home.