Emerson Vermaat: Madrid Terrorists Possessed an Important Al-Qaeda Manual
February 20, 2007
Madrid Terrorists Possessed an Important Al-Qaeda Manual
By Emerson Vermaat
A number of terrorists involved in the terrorist attacks on commuter trains in Madrid on March 11, 2004, possessed an important manual on rules of behavior during interrogations. The same manual has been widely distributed among jihadists belonging to the Al-Qaeda network. The Spanish newspaper El País recently reported that this manual had been found in an apartment in the Madrid suburb of Leganés where seven terrorists blew themselves up on april 2, 2004, just as members of an anti-terrorist unit were about to enter their apartment.[i As a result of the explosion the apartment was completely destroyed and one member of the anti-terorrist unit was killed instantaneously.
This is highly topical in view of the major terrorism trial against the March 11 ("11-M") terrorists which began in Madrid on February 15, 2007. On that fatal day of March 11, 2004, nearly 200 people were killed when ten bombs exploded in four commuter trains in or near Madrid. The organizers used the apartment in Leganés as their base and they were planning new terrorist attacks on Spanish soil. The instruction manual Security lessons for the Mujahideen told jihadists what to do in case of an arrest and subsequent interrogations and how to conduct themselves in court. "Deny all the facts, state that you are innocent and follow the strategy of concealment," is one of the lessons from this manual. Other interesting instructions say: "You must convince your interrogators that all the information they possess is wrong." "And should you confess something to the security services, do not dare to confirm this when you talk to the public prosecutor." "Insist that you do not have anything to do with this group or that person." "Your confession in the courtroom will be the major piece of evidence against you, so never let yourself be lured into making a confession. You must always keep in mind that interrogations and torture will end and that it depends on you if you will become a collapsed wretch and traitor or a hero. The mujahideen are not allowed to deceive and betray their brothers. A partial confession is the beginning of a total confession, leading into the abyss. Resistance must be total, you must obsure (ocultar) everything." "You must deny everything."
This strategy was clearly followed by the accused in the first week of the trial in Madrid. An Egyptian named Rabei Osman Sayed and a Moroccan immigrant named Jamal Zougam told the court that they had nothing to do with the attacks in Madrid. On the contrary, they were peaceful and moderate Muslims opposed to violence. Zougam said he was vast asleep at home when the bombs exploded in the four commuter trains. But several witnesses that were on one of those trains actually saw him there. Zougam left a bag with explosives and later got off the train. Rabei Osman Sayed solemnly stated: "Mr. President, I never had any relation with these events which occured in Madrid." But in May 2004, the Italian anti-terrorist police DIGOS tapped a highly interesting telephone conversation between Rabei Osman Sayed and his friend Yahia, a Palestinian. Osman informed Yahia that he was the mastermind behind the Madrid attacks. "The Madrid attack was my project... I am the thread of Madrid. At the time of the event I was not there, but I tell you the truth, before the operation, on the 4th, I had contacts with them."[ii He also told Yahia: "This project took me a lot of studying and lot of patience. It took me two and a half years."
Another important suspect in the trial in Madrid is a Moroccan man named Youssef Belhadj. Belhadj previously lived in Molenbeek, Belgium. (Belgium is a hotbed of Moroccan and Algerian extremists.) Calling himself "Abu Dujana Al-Afghani, the spokesman of Al-Qaeda in Europe," Belhadj claimed responsibility for the March 11 attacks in a video message. Yet, in the courtroom he pretended he knew nothing, he denied being a radical Muslim. "I am a normal Muslim," he said. He had nothing to do with Al-Qaeda, nor had he been in any training camp in Afghanistan. He claimed he had condemned the Madrid attacks in a conversation with his nephew Mohammed Moussaten. The president of the court confronted Belhadj with a statement from his nephew saying that Belhadj had told him that the attacks on the trains were only a small matter. No condemnation at all, on the contrary. Belhadj then lamely claimed that his nephew had accused him because he had been afraid of his family.[iii "I am opposed to all forms of violence," he told the court on February 16, 2007.
Another interesting figure is Mr. Hassan el Haski, the European leader of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group. This group was founded in an Afghan training camp in 1998 with the personal blessing of Osama bin Laden and was held responsible for the terrorist attacks in Casablanca in May 2003.[iv El Haski, too, assured the court he had nothing to do with the attacks in Madrid. He did not approve of them, of course. He knew none of the accused, nor was he a terrorist, he claimed. He even denied an organization called the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group existed. "It is a fiction, they speak about a group that does not exist," he said.[v]He had come to Spain (Lanzarote) in 2000 hoping to profit from the 'regularization' of illegal immigrants. (This is what tens of thousands of African and North African illegal immigrants do.) But the prosecution believes el Haski was in fact one of the ideologues of the March 11 terrorists, a real hardliner. He was trained in Pakistan and Syria. The Spanish newspaper El País mentioned a secret report drawn up in 2003 by a number of intelligence service saying that the GICM does exist and that el Haski was one of its integrants.[vi
Monday February 19, 2007, was another interesting day in court. A Syrian man named Basel Ghalyoun and a Moroccan man named Abdelmajid Bouchar denied ever having been in the apartment in Leganés. Yet, traces of their DNA had been found in that same apartment. Ghalyoun also stated that Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet, known as "the Tunisian," wanted to attack Spain because of that country's role in Iraq.[vii Fakhet was one of the terrorists who blew themselves up in Leganés. He is seen as the leader of the whole March 11 operation. Ghalyoun at least frankly admitted he knew Fakhet as well as some of the others who committed suicide in Leganés.
Another interesting manual on jihadist tactics was found in Leganés: How to confront the interrogation by the intelligence services. Again, a lot of lessons on avoiding straight answers: "If they find some evidence against you which you cannot deny, you must find a pretext. Never mention the source or the purpose of that evidence." "You must be obstinate and resisting."[viii
The latter instruction manual is particularly interesting since it was also found on the computers of some members of the Hofstad Group, a terrorist network in the Netherlands.[ix
There are more and more indications that the terrorist attacks in London on July 7, 2005, were an Al-Qaeda operation. This is also the view expressed by CNN's Peter Bergen (see the interview with him on CNN Europe on Monday 19, 2007). Al-Qaeda is not dead at all, quite the contrary is the case: this terrorist octopus is quickly recovering and regaining strength. I stated already in October 2005 (in my book on the Hofstad Group) that Al-Qaeda was most likely behind those attacks. I would not be surprised either if Al-Qaeda also played an important role in the Madrid attacks. (This is, at least, what they themselves claim and I do not think they are lying when they issue such statements.) In my book " Al-Qaeda's Deadly Planning" (2005) I also discussed Al-Qaeda's possible role in the Madrid attacks.
A new Al-Qaeda vehicle is the resurgent Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC). This Algerian group is now active in the whole of North Africa as well as in Mauritania, Mali, Somalia, Nigeria and other African countries. They are also successful in recruiting frustrated young North Africans among the immigrant communities of multicultural Western Europe. The GSPC leadership pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden and they are extremely violent. They see crime as a means to achieve their ends. They now pose a serious threat to the security of Europe.
Emerson Vermaat is a Dutch investigative reporter. He is the author of two books on the Hofstad Group (2005 and 2006), a terrorist network in the Netherlands. He also published a book on Al-Qaida operations (in Dutch) and is currently writing a book in English on jihadists in the Netherlands. His website is: emersonvermaat.com
[i El País, 18 December 2007, p. 1, 18 ("Un manual de los terroristas del 11-M les instruye para que se declaren inocentes").
[ii Frontline, The Surveillance Tapes, www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/front/etc/rabei.html. Full text in: El País, 9 June 2004, p. 17 ("El atentado de Madrid ha sido un projecto mío..."). See also: Emerson Vermaat, De Dodelijke Planning van Al-Qaida (Soesterberg: Aspekt Publishers, 2005), p. 140, 141, 163,
[iii El País, 18 February 2007, p. 18 (Youssef Belhadj: "Mi sobrino Mohamed me acusó porque tenía miedo por su familia.").
[ivCasimiro García-Abadillo, 11-M. La Venganza (Madrid: La Esfera de los Libros, 2004). p. 185, 186.
[v El País, 17 February 2007, p. 18 ("Hassan el Haski: "Como voy a tener relaciones con ETA si ni hablo ni leo español?")
[vii El Mundo, 20 February 2007, p. 1, 8 ("Ghalyoun y Bouchar niegan haber estado en Leganés pese a los rastros de su ADN").
[viiiEl País, 18 February 2007, p. 18 ("El manual para negarlo todo").
[ix Emerson Vermaat, Nederlandse Jihad. Het Proces tegen de Hofstadgroep (Soesterberg: Aspekt Publishers, 2006), p. 68.