Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hechos Probados....The Leganés Siege

Shortly before 15:15 on the 3rd April 2004, a team of national police officers located an apartment at the address 1A, 40 Calle Carmen Martín Gaite in the town of Leganés, not far from Madrid. They suspected that some of the suspects responsible for the train bombings were hiding out at this address. The apartment had been rented by Mohamed Belhadj, brother of the accused Youssef Belhadj, and following instructions issued by Mohamed Afalah. Belhadj signed a contract with the agency handling the property on the 8th March 2004.

At about 16:00 one of the occupants of the apartment, identified as Abdelmajid Bouchar, came down to the street with a bag of rubbish. Noticing the police presence he left the rubbish bag on the ground and then took a different street from that which would take him back to the apartment. He then fled, crossing the railway tracks and managing to escape from the police officers chasing him. One of the officers who gave up the chase returned to the block containing the apartment and collected the abandoned rubbish bag, which he placed in the trunk of a police vehicle for later examination by the forensic police. They would subsequently identify DNA belonging to Bouchar on date and olive stones contained in the bag.

Still in the apartment were Abdennabi Kounjaa, Rifaat Anouar Asrih, Serhane Ben Abdelmajid, Jamal Ahmidan, Mohamed Oulad Akcha, Rachid Oulad Akcha and Allekema Lamari, who were now aware of the police presence and fired some shots. The police began the evacuation of the building.

Telephone calls were made by occupants of the apartment to members of their families, calls were detected by Serhane ben Abdelmajid, the Oulad Akcha brothers, and Abdennabi Kounjaa, with some information on these being received from the Tunisian and Moroccan intelligence services. Meanwhile, at approximately 17:45 instructions were issued to the special police force known as the GEOS to come to the scene of the siege. Fifteen members of this squad arrived at the scene between 19:00 and 19:15. They considered the option of directly assaulting the apartment; the neighbouring apartment was the home of a police officer, but they decided against this tactic. At around 20:30 the electricity, gas and water supply to the building was cut and the GEOS called on the occupants of the apartment to give themselves up, with no success. At this point the police decided to try and force them to leave, and 30 minutes later they blew open the front door of the apartment with a small explosive charge. Despite this, those inside the apartment refused to leave and taunted the GEOS to enter. The GEOS then fired tear gas into the apartment and seconds later there was a substantial explosion as someone inside detonated around 20 kilos of Goma 2 Eco dynamite. The explosion caused significant damage to the block and surrounding buildings, killing all of those inside the apartment as well as a member of the GEOS, Francisco Javier Torronteras.

Footnote: The dramatic finish to the hunt for the bombers, we will never know whether the decision to blow up the apartment was a joint decision by all inside, or simply one taken by the more determined members of the group. For those searching for the "intellectual authors" of the bombings, the most likely place to find them is in the wreckage of the Leganés apartment.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Hechos Probados....The AVE Bomb

On the 2nd April 2004, an explosive device was detected underneath the track of the high speed rail line (AVE) connecting Madrid with Sevilla, near to the locality of Mocejón in Toledo province. This device had been placed by members of the same group responsible for the train bombings in Madrid. The bomb contained 12 kilos of Goma 2 Eco dynamite and an aluminium detonator identical to two of those recovered from the Renault Kangoo van in Alcalá de Henares on March 11th.

Footnote: The attempt to bomb the AVE was at the time frightening evidence of the continuing activity of the cell responsible for the Madrid train bombings, coming 3 weeks after the original bombings. Despite several arrests, the police had still not located the central core of the group responsible.

Hechos Probados....Hamid Ahmidam

At 16:15 on the 26th March 2004, the police searched a property located at address 30 Avenida Cerro de los Angeles in Madrid. The residence they searched was rented by a cousin of Hamid Ahmidam (who was already detained at the time of the search). The police were unaware that he had been living at this address. During the search they found over 59 kilos of hashish and more than 125,000 tablets of MDMA (ecstasy). In addition the police discovered €19,010 in cash and faked identity documents including a foreigner’s residence permit and driving licence in the name of Otman el Gnaoui. A passport in the name of the latter was also found, but containing a photograph of Jamal Ahmidam.

The documentation had been given by El Gnaoui to Jamal Ahmidam in the knowledge that it would be manipulated, for which reason the former had reported the passport as lost at a police station on the 10th March 2004. Hashish was also discovered at another address associated with Hamid Ahmidam, at number 9 Calle Acebuchal in Madrid. In a Renault Megane car normally driven by Hamid Ahmidam, but belonging to his cousin Hicham, were found some possessions identified as belonging to the owner of the stolen Renault Kangoo van used by some members of the group on the day of the bombings.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hechos Probados....The House In Morata

Much of the dynamite stolen from the Mina Conchita was stored in the property rented from the end of January 2004 by Jamal Ahmidam in Morata de Tajuña, although Ahmidam had made use of it before this date. At this property various works were carried out during January and February 2004. One of the objectives of these works was to conceal the dynamite and other illegal objects or substances. To this end the accused Hamid Ahmidam and Otman el Gnaoui excavated a hole in the floor of a shed which they lined with insulating material and then covered in such a way as to disguise its existence. Frequent visitors to the property included Abdelilah el Fadoual el Akil, Mohamed el Haddad, and Abdelmajid Bouchar, as well as the members of the group killed in Leganés.

El Fadoual El Akil was an intimate friend of Jamal Ahmidam, and participated in the latter’s criminal activities. Both had talked of going to Chechenia to participate in the “jihad”. He knew of Ahmidam’s radical ideas and during a visit that both made to Holland in the year 2000 they got in contact with Imad Eddin Barakat Yardas, at that time a person responsible for recruitment of jihadist fighters.

On the 27th February 2004 El Fadoual El Akil travelled to Madrid from Ceuta, one of the Spanish enclaves in Morocco. On the 1st March he visited Jamal Ahmidam at the property in Morata, where he was asked by Ahmidam to take to Ceuta the Volkswagen Golf which had been used to transport explosives from Asturias. El Fadoual El Akil agreed to do this and returned to Ceuta with this car.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Hechos Probados....The Theft Of The Dynamite

As a result of his agreement with Jamal Ahmidam to provide explosives, Jose Emilio Suárez Trashorras arranged the supply of two shipments of dynamite to Madrid between the 5th and the 9th of January 2004. On the 4th January Trashorras offered €600 to Sergio Alvarez Sánchez to carry a sports bag to Madrid which he would hand over on arrival to a person waiting for him at the bus station. Trashorras bought him a ticket for the journey to be made the following day, and on the morning of the 5th he took Alvarez to the bus station in Oviedo together with the bag he was to transport. On arrival in Madrid Alvarez awaited the arrival of Jamal Ahmidam in the bus station, Ahmidam arrived 30-45 minutes later. Shortly afterwards Alvarez returned to Oviedo by bus. On arrival Trashorras was waiting for him together with Gabriel Montoya Vidal. As payment for the journey Alvarez was given two tablets of hashish, valued by the accused at approximately €700.

The second journey to Madrid was made by Iván Reis Palicio who had a debt with Antonio Toro related to hashish trafficking. Trashorras offered to cancel this debt if Reis would take to Madrid on the 9th January a bag which he was told contained hashish. After further negotiation it was agreed that Trashorras would pay an additional €300. Reis Palicio complied with the agreement and took the bus service to Madrid, he was met in Madrid by Jamal Ahmidam who took the bag. Ahmidam also demanded payment of money, and finding that Reis did not have this he took the latter’s wallet and mobile telephone. Reis Palicio was never paid for the journey, nor did he have his debt with Toro cancelled.

On the 23rd January 2004, Trashorras spoke to Jamal Ahmidam using the telephone of Iván Granados Peña. He also spoke to Raúl González Pelaez and they agreed to meet in a place known as the Mirador de Tineo. Both he and Granados went to this place. Once there, Trashorras disappeared with González during approximately 45 minutes, on return both he and Granados went back to Avilés. During this journey Trashorras asked Granados to transport a bag containing explosives to Madrid, something which Granados refused to do. Trashorras made the same proposal to Gabriel Montoya Vidal who agreed and made the journey by bus at the end of January or during the first few days of February. Montoya handed the bag to Jamal Ahmidam in Madrid and returned to Asturias. The next day Granados informed Montoya Vidal that the explosive the latter had transported had been collected from the mine where he had worked.

The dynamite was removed from the mine taking advantage of the complete absence of control over usage of explosive there. The person in charge of recording such usage, Emilio Llano Alvarez, simply noted the quantity that he was verbally provided with by the miners. Access to detonators was also not controlled as the miners simply hid the keys to the stores under a stone or behind a tree. The difference between the amount really consumed and that received at the mine was left lying in the mine in a place where it could be collected by Trashorras or anyone acting for him. There is no evidence that Llano intervened himself in the extraction of the explosive from the mine.

In February of 2004, Emilio Suárez Trashorras was driving a Toyota Corolla car which had a false number plate fitted. This car had been stolen in Madrid on the 18th September 2003 by unknown persons. The car was given to Trashorras in Madrid by Jamal Ahmidam on the 28th December 2003. It was Trashorras who decided to change the plates on the car once he had returned to Avilés in Asturias. Two or three days before the 28th February 2004 Trashorras drove with this car to the Mina Conchita in the company of Gabriel Montoya Vidal. At the mine, Trashorras got out of the car and spoke to two people wearing blue overalls whilst Montoya waited in the car. Trashorras returned to the car saying “this is done, it’s good”. On the afternoon of the 28th February Trashorras collected Montoya in the same car in the company of Jamal Ahmidam. They were accompanied by another vehicle, a Volkswagen Golf, in which were travelling Mohamed Oulad Akcha and Abdennabi Kounjaa.

Both vehicles were heading towards the mine when Trashorras received a call from his then wife, Carmen Toro. As a result of this call they returned to Avilés, collected some boots which Trashorras gave to Ahmidam and set off once more for the mine. Once at the entrance to the mine, Trashorras and Ahmidam entered the mine whilst Montoya, Kounjaa and Oulad Akcha remained with the cars. After approximately 45 minutes, both men returned and Trashorras reminded Ahmidam to remember to collect some bolts and screws that were nearby. All of them returned to Avilés where Ahmidam and his companions purchased three rucksacks, three sports bags, three torches and two pairs of gloves in a Carrefour supermarket. They then went to Trashorras home in the street of Llano Ponte.

Trashorras remained at home, whilst the other four went once again to the mine where all except Montoya entered the area of the mine itself. Several hours later Ahmidam, Kounjaa and Oulad Akcha returned to the car with all of the bags and rucksacks loaded. Once again they returned to Avilés. At the garage of Trashorras in Avilés they passed all explosives into the Volkswagen Golf, before again setting off for the mine to repeat the same operation. At around midday on the 29th February Ahmidam, Oulad Akcha and Kounjaa began the journey back to Madrid with the explosives they had removed from the mine. Ahmidam drove the Toyota Corolla and the other two men went in the Golf.

Shortly before setting off for Madrid Jamal Ahmidam phoned Otman el Gnaoui telling him they were returning. In the course of this conversation it was agreed that El Gnaoui and other members of the group would meet them on the road connecting Burgos and Madrid, Ahmidam phoned again during the journey to agree the point at which they would meet, which turned out to be the locality of Cogollos in Burgos province. During the journey the vehicle driven by Ahmidam was stopped by a Guardia Civil traffic patrol, Ahmidam showed the officers a false Belgian passport in the name of Youssef Ben Salan and was allowed to proceed after being sanctioned for speeding and not having the vehicle documentation in order.

Footnote: A further demonstration of just how easy the theft of the explosive was from Mina Conchita, and with the added twist of Jamal Ahmidam being stopped by the police whilst transporting it back to Madrid from Asturias. A mine with significant dynamite usage, and virtually no control over consumption or with any security. A perfect place for anyone looking to acquire explosives. The court has not accepted the defence of those who carried bags of dynamite to Madrid, the claim that they did not know what was in the bags has been rejected.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Hechos Probados....The Dynamite Trail

Most, if not all, of the dynamite used in the train bombs, and all of that which was used in the Leganés explosion, together with that retrieved from the wreckage of that explosion, came from the Conchita Mine in the municipality of Belmonte de Miranda, Asturias. The mine belonged to the company Caolines de Merillés S.A.

In September 2001 Rafa Zouhier and Antonio Toro coincided in the prison of Villabona in Asturias where they became friends. Once both were in liberty, Toro presented Zouhier to his brother-in-law José Emilio Suárez Trashorras. During his time in prison Rafa Zouhier agreed to become an informer for the Guardia Civil, his contacts were two officer using the names “Rafa” and “Victor”. At the end of January 2003, or the beginning of February of the same year, Zouhier told his contacts that Antonio Toro was attempting to sell 150 kilograms of explosives supplied by Trashorras who had once worked in the Mina Conchita. The Guardia Civil officers regarded this information as reliable and investigated the whereabouts of Toro. Zouhier was asked to obtain a sample of the explosive, which he did by convincing Toro and Trashorras that he had some possible buyers in Madrid. This sample was handed to the Guardia Civil, who destroyed it after receiving the opinion of an explosives specialist.

Zouhier did not discuss the issue of explosives again with his Guardia Civil controllers until after the 11th March 2004, despite the fact that he carried out the role of intermediary for the supply of detonators and explosives between Trashorras and Jamal Ahmidam. As part of this process, he had in his possession in October 2003 an industrial detonator supplied by Toro and Trashorras. This detonator exploded whilst being manipulated by Zouhier in the presence of the accused Rachid Aglif, causing injuries to both.

At some point between the end of October 2003 and the beginning of January 2004, Jamal Ahmidam and Trashorras agreed the supply of dynamite from mines located in Asturias. Rachid Aglif was aware of this negotiation, it is not established that Antonio or Carmen Toro intervened in this process, although they may have been aware of it. Ahmidam and Trashorras held at least two meetings in hamburger restaurants in Madrid, as well as an unknown number of other meetings in Avilés (where Trashorras lived) and numerous contacts by telephone.

On the 28th October 2003, they met in the McDonalds restaurant in the Madrid district of Carabanchel. Also present were Aglif and Zouhier. Seated at a separate table were Carmen Toro and Pablo Alvarez Moya. During this meeting Aglif asked Trashorras to supply 60 kilos of dynamite. In the middle of November a second meeting was held in a different branch of McDonalds in Moncloa, also in Madrid. This meeting was attended by Ahmidam, Trashorras, Zouhier, Aglif, and both Antonio and Carmen Toro. Part of the discussion concerned a debt from hashish trafficking, without it being clear whether this formed part of the deal on the dynamite.

Footnote: Trashorras has ended up taking virtually all the blame for the dynamite deal, whilst others involved have either been absolved or given light sentences. The Guardia Civil does not come out of the case looking good, they had the opportunity to deal with explosives trafficking in the region and they didn't do it. Which is not to say they would have prevented the bombings from occurring, but they could at the very least have closed off an easy supply of illegal explosives.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hechos Probados....The Telephones And The Cards

The card contained in the telephone used in the Vallecas bomb had been supplied by Jamal Zougam, one of the owners of the shop Jawal Mundo Telecom – Locutorio Siglo Nuevo which was located at 17 Calle Tribulete in Madrid. The card formed part of a pack of thirty prepaid cards from the company AMENA which had been supplied together with Motorola C450 telephones. The packs containing telephone and cards had been provided by a company called Uritel 2000 S.A. to another called Sindhu Enterprise S.L. It was this latter company who separated the cards from the telephones, and who sold the cards to the shop of Jamal Zougam. Eight of the cards from this batch have been found to have a direct relationship to the train bombings.

On the 3rd March 2004 the shop Decomisos Top, located at 42 Avenida Real de Pinto in Madrid, sold to a still unidentified member of the group responsible for the bombings nine telephones of the same brand and model as that contained in the Vallecas bomb. Three of these were handed over on the same day, and the other six were collected the following day after they had been “liberated” to enable their use with any telephone company. This was because the telephones were designed for use only with cards from Movistar. Decomisos Top gave the task of liberating the phones to another company, Ayman S.L.. A tenth telephone was sold on the 8th March. Seven of these telephones have been identified as having been used together with cards from the batch supplied to Jamal Zougam’s shop. One of these telephones was that discovered in the Vallecas bomb.

The cards used in these telephones were activated, without calls being made or received, between 2:24 on the 10th March 2004 and 2:24 on the 11th. The activation was carried out in the area covered by an antenna located in Morata de Tajuña. No activity has been detected for these cards since the 11th March 2004, because they were used as timers in some of the other bombs. In the area covered by the antenna of Morata is located the property rented by Jamal Ahmidam on the 28th January 2004.

In addition, at least nine of the thirty AMENA cards were used by members of the group who carried out the bombings. Jamal Zougam was using one at the time of his detention; another was used by those who committed suicide in Leganés to make farewell calls to their families.

Footnote: The whole investigation of the train bombings is an object lesson on what information you can gather based on evidence from mobile phone usage. The telephone and card found in the unexploded bomb led directly to the first arrests in the case, and to a dramatic change in the public perception regarding authorship of the bombings.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Hechos Probados....The Vallecas Bomb

Articles and possessions recovered from the trains where bombs exploded were placed inside large rubbish bags, which were then closed or sealed prior to being taken elsewhere for an inventory of the contents. Amongst the objects recovered from the station of El Pozo there was an explosive device contained in a sea blue sports bag. On the afternoon of the bombings two police vans arrived at this station to collect those possessions which had been recovered from the train. Their initial instructions were to take these belongings to the police station of Villa de Vallecas in Madrid. Arriving at this destination, the officer in charge at the station refused to take charge of the cargo, so the vans then headed towards the nearby police station of Puente de Vallecas. On arrival at this station they were then ordered to take the vans and their contents to the IFEMA exhibition centre, which was being used as an emergency morgue and reception centre. At IFEMA the bags were unloaded and deposited in one of the pavilions together with a notice indicating where they had come from. The bags remained under the custody of a police unit.

The same afternoon, the commanding officer at Puente de Vallecas was informed that one of the judges dealing with the consequences of the bombings had issued an instruction that these personal belongings should be stored at Puente de Vallecas and not at IFEMA. So once again the bags were loaded into police vehicles and taken back to this police station. Once there, four officers proceeded with an inventory of the contents of the bags. At approximately 1:30 a.m. one of these officers opened the bag containing the unexploded device and noticed a mobile telephone with cables attached to it. The alarm was raised with bomb disposal specialists being called for, and the police station was evacuated.

The specialists who arrived carried out an initial inspection of the device and decided to take it to the nearby Azorín Park to deactivate with the minimum risk. Once at the park they carried out x-rays of the device but without these providing sufficient information for a secure deactivation. Eventually they managed to deactivate the device and found that it had a Mitsubishi Trium telephone as the timer connected to a copper detonator which had been inserted in slightly more than ten kilos of dynamite. The bag also contained 640 grams of nails and screws to act as shrapnel, and a telephone charger suitable for the Trium. Subsequent laboratory examination revealed that the device did not explode because one of the cables exiting the telephone was not connected properly. The device was identical in its structure and design to those found in the train at Atocha station and the other unexploded device found at El Pozo; both of which were destroyed as part of the deactivation attempts.

The detonator was of an industrial variety and was manufactured by the Spanish company UEB. The telephone used as a timer contained a card from the company AMENA-AUNA with the assigned number 652282963. The alarm on the telephone was programmed for 7:40 a.m. From the identification of the telephone it was clear that the case of the phone had been substituted at some point by another from a telephone of the same kind.

Footnote: Another crucial piece of evidence accepted in full by the court. The only unexploded device which was recovered fully intact, the telephone and its card provided the lead that led to the arrest of Jamal Zougam. The explosive confirmed the use of Goma 2 Eco dynamite in the bombs, together with another detonator that matched those found in the Renault Kangoo van. Hardly surprising then, that those determined to create maximum confusion about the bombings have insisted that the bomb was never on the trains, and that it was planted at some point during the long journey that the bags from El Pozo took that day.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Hechos Probados....The Discovery Of The Renault Kangoo

At approximately 10:30 a.m. on the day of the bombings, the caretaker of a building situated at number 5 in the street Infantado in Alcalá de Henares reported to the president of the community of owners of the building his sighting at around 7 a.m. of three individuals getting out of a white Renault Kangoo van located about 100 metres from the railway station. The president in turn informed the police. After speaking to the caretaker, the police cordoned off the vehicle and evacuated nearby buildings. At approximately 11 a.m. police specialists in terrorism arrived at the scene and made an initial visual inspection of the vehicle with the aim of detecting the possible presence of a bomb. No visible signs of any device were seen. Also sent to the scene were police dog handlers whose dogs were trained to detect explosives. An external inspection with the dogs produced no results, so the back door van was opened and one of the animals was introduced inside – again with negative results.

Having established that the van could be moved without danger, orders were received to take it to the headquarters of the forensic police in the district of Canillas in Madrid. The van arrived at Canillas at around 15:30 and was inspected there by police officers. During this inspection the officers found beneath the front seat on the right hand side, a blue rubbish bag containing seven industrial detonators and the tip of a dynamite cartridge. Two of the detonators contained a label identifying them as having been made in Spain by UEB. All of the detonators were made by the company Unión Española-Ensing Bickford, and were identical to those later found in the unexploded device deactivated in Azorín park, and those discovered amongst the wreckage of the Leganés apartment.

Other articles found in the van included a cassette tape with Arabic script. Genetic traces and fingerprint evidence was recovered from the van.

Footnote: The importance of the Renault Kangoo was that it was the first discovery of clues leading to the perpetrators of the bombings, and also because of the cassette discovered it was the first sign of possible Islamist responsibility. The detonators found in the van provided crucial evidence on the origin of the explosives used in the bombs. Because of this the conspiracy theorists have constantly attempted to suggest that the van was filled with phony evidence by police officers involved in the great conspiracy. Not surprisingly, the court has not taken this suggestion very seriously. The van has been accepted as being one of the vehicles used by the bombers.

Saved By The Supreme Court

Agustín Díaz de Mera, the director general of the police at the time of the Madrid bombings, has had the charge against him of contempt of court dropped by the Spanish Supreme Court. Díaz de Mera was obliged during the trial to provide the name of his source for his claim that a report linking ETA to the train bombings had been suppressed. The police officer he named as his source denied in the trial ever having provided Díaz de Mera with such information. However, because he named someone it has been decided that he complied with the requirements of the court. He has been lucky; it is extremely unlikely that he had any source at all for his extravagant and completely unsubstantiated claims about the existence of this report. To get himself out of trouble it seems he just had to name anyone. He is not a policeman himself, the post he occupied was a political one, and Díaz de Mera was a trusted political collaborator of the then Interior Minister Angel Acebes.

El Mundo - El Supremo archiva el caso 'Díaz de Mera' por su declaración en el juicio del 11-M

The Victims Also Appeal

The Asociación 11-M Afectados por el Terrorismo, representing many of the victims of the Madrid bombings, has announced its intention to appeal against some of the sentences. They want to appeal the decision of the court to not convict Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed, and they also seek convictions for Carmen and Antonio Toro. In addition they are seeking higher sentences for Hassan el Haski, Youssef Belhadj, Rafa Zouhier, Abdelmajid Bouchar and Fouad el Morabit.

Público - La Asociación 11-M Afectados por el Terrorismo recurre la sentencia del 11-M ante el Tribunal Supremo

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Prosecution Appeals

State prosecutors have announced today their intention to appeal against the decision of the court not to sentence Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed on the charge of belonging to a terrorist group. The courts absolved him of this charge because he has already been convicted of the same offence in Italy. The reports suggest that the appeal will argue that the circumstances of the charge in Spain are not the same as those used to convict him in Italy, and that therefore the principle of not convicting twice for the same offence need not apply. For the moment, there is no confirmation on whether the prosecutors will appeal on the lighter than expected sentences given to some others of the accused.

El País - La Fiscalía recurrirá la absolución de El Egipcio al no coincidir la condena de Italia con el 11-M

Monday, November 05, 2007

Hechos Probados....The Bombs On The Trains

On the morning of the 11th March 2004, a total of thirteen bags containing explosive devices were placed on four commuter trains travelling on the line between Alcalá de Henares and Madrid. The bombs were timed to explode simultaneously, and ten of them exploded between 7:37 and 7:40 a.m. Eight devices were placed on the first, fourth, fifth and sixth carriages of the two trains with numbers 21431 and 17305, which departed the station of Alcalá at 7:01 and 7:04 respectively. Of these, all but that placed in the first wagon on train 21431 exploded. Three detonated in Atocha Station itself where train 21431 had stopped at platform 2. The other four exploded on train 17305 at approximately 7:39 when this train was passing by the Calle de Tellez, a few hundred metres from Atocha station.

Another four bags containing devices were placed on the train with number 21435 which departed from Alcalá at 7:10 a.m. This train was composed of two tier carriages, and two devices placed in the upper part of carriages four and five exploded at 7:38 whilst the train was in the station of El Pozo. The other two bombs, placed in the lower part of carriages two and three, did not explode. One was deactivated in the station itself and the other in the early hours of the next day in the Azorin park in the Madrid district of Vallecas. The remaining device was placed by Jamal Zougam in the fourth carriage of train number 21713, which had left Alcala at 7:14. This device exploded at 7:38 when the train was at the station of Santa Eugenia.

191 people died as a consequence of the explosions, 34 in Atocha, 63 at Calle Tellez, 65 at El Pozo, 14 at Santa Eugenia, and 15 died later in different hospitals in Madrid. In addition 1857 people were injured.

At 8:40 a.m., following removal of the dead and injured, the chief inspector of the Madrid bomb disposal squad ordered the searching of the train in Atocha station. The unexploded device in the first carriage of the train was discovered and removed from the train. At approximately 10:00 a,m. an unsuccessful attempt was made to deactivate it, resulting in a controlled explosion. Shortly before this the bomb disposal team received advice of another unexploded device found at El Pozo.

The device at El Pozo was discovered by members of the municipal police who had been instructed to search the train. Noticing cables in the bag and a mobile telephone, the bag was taken onto the platform and word was passed to advise the bomb disposal team of the discovery. The bomb disposal experts arrived at approximately 9 a.m. and the device was destroyed in a controlled explosion as part of attempts to deactivate it.

Footnote: The only person directly named in the sentence as placing a bomb is Jamal Zougam, this is based on witness identification of him given during the trial. For the rest of the bombs we do not know with any certainty which individuals from the group placed them, or at which stations the bombers boarded the trains. The timing of each explosion depended on the alarm of the mobile telephone used to activate the device, so it is possible they were all set for the same time yet exploded within a time frame of more or less three minutes.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Map Of The Madrid Train Bombings

Taking advantage of Google Maps allowing personalised maps to be included in blogs, I have started work on a map of the locations associated with the train bombings. It is a work in progress but already includes some of the principal locations. To view the information associated with the map I advise clicking on the link to expand it. Clicking on each icon provides an explanation and additional links where relevant.

Click Here For Expanded Map

Hechos Probados....How The Bombs Were Planted

On March 11th 2004 three unidentified members of the terrorist cell travelled to the town of Alcalá de Henares in a white Renault Kangoo van, carrying various sports bags or rucksacks containing explosive devices. The van belonged to José Garzón Gómez, and had been stolen by unknown persons at some point between 13:00 on the 27th February 2004, and 01:00 on the following day from where it was parked at number 15 Calle Aranjuez in Madrid.

Shortly before 7:00 a.m. on the day of the bombings, the occupants of this vehicle parked it in the Calle del Infantado, a street close to the railway station. They were seen here by the caretaker of a nearby building. On leaving the vehicle, they made their way towards the station and placed an unknown number of bags containing explosive devices in various trains heading towards Madrid. At the same time other members of the group did the same, boarding the trains in unidentified stations on the route between Alcalá and Atocha station in Madrid.

One member of the group, who has not been identified beyond all doubt, was seen at approximately 7:45 a.m. changing his clothes between two huts on a building site located on the Gran Via del Este opposite the railway station of Vicálvaro. In this place abandoned clothes were found. Genetic profiles detected on these clothes included that of the accused Otman el Gnaoui.

Footnote: The Kangoo van has of course been one of the main targets for the conspiracy theorists because it was the first significant piece of evidence pointing towards Islamist responsibility for the bombings. The court has accepted it as valid evidence for the transport of some of the bombers and the devices they planted. However, this is all we know about the planting of the bombs. There were thirteen devices in total so it is reasonable to assume that other vehicles were involved as well as more than three people. This vehicle was left in Alcalá, it is not known how those planting the bombs managed to return to their homes or hiding places

Los Hechos Probados....The Members Of The Cell

The sentence identifies the following people as being members of a "jihadist" terrorist cell that planned and carried out the train bombings:

Accused In The Trial:

Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed
Hassan el Haski
Youssef Belhadj
Abdelmajid Bouchar
Jamal Zougam
Basel Ghalyoun
Otman el Gnaoui
Mohamed Larbi Ben Sellam
Rachif Aglif
Mouhannad Almallah Dabas
Fouad el Morabit Amghar
Mohamed Bouharrat
Saed el Harrak
Hamid Ahmidan

Killed in the Leganés explosion:

Serhane Ben Abdelmajid
Jamal Ahmidan
Mohamed Oulad Akcha
Rachid Oulad Akcha
Abdennabi Kounjaa
Rifaat Anouar Asrih
Allekema Lamari
A still unidentified eighth person

Footnote: Not included in those listed by the sentence are suspected members of the group who escaped in the aftermath of the bombings, perhaps because the court has not been required to examine their involvement. If caught, they willl have to face trial although at least two are believed to have died in Iraq. More obviously, those involved in the supply of the explosives are also not named as part of the cell itself, as well as some other more marginal collaborators. Note the inclusion of Rabei Osman El Sayed Ahmed. Not sentenced to any prison term, he is still included in the group; which confirms the general impression that he was not sentenced as a member of a terrorist group in Spain because he has already been convicted of that offence in Italy.

Los Hechos Probados

The sentence contains a section dedicated to what are known as the “hechos probados”. In layman’s terms this refers to what the court has accepted as valid and proven during the trial, and which therefore provides the basis for the court's verdict on each of the accused. Over the next few days I will summarise the content of this part of the sentence, it offers an account of events which may not be entirely complete but which is the closest we can get at this moment in time to a narrative of what happened before and after the 11th March 2004. It is a summary, not a translation, but I will not add anything to this account except additional information which helps to identify persons or locations. Any opinions I have on the hechos probados will be provided as separate footnotes in each section.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Conspiracy Theorists May Get Their Day In Court

Following the sentence in the trial, the SUP (the largest trade union representing members of the police in Spain) has announced its intention to launch legal proceedings against several those involved in promotion of the conspiracy theories about the train bombings. The conspiracy theorists have repeatedly implied police involvement in the planning or carrying out of the attacks, as well as accusing police witnesses of having lied during the trial. These attacks have even been aimed at officers who put their lives at risk in the deactivation of the unexploded bombs recovered from the trains. The general secretary of the SUP has identified as potential candidates for action the following: Ignacio Astarloa and Jaime Ignacio del Burgo of the parliamentary group of the Partido Popular, Federico Jiménez Losantos, Fernando Múgica of El Mundo and Luis del Pino, leader of the Peones Negros sect.

El País - El mayor sindicato policial anuncia querellas contra los "conspiranoicos"

On Hunger Strike Against The Sentence

Ten of those convicted on Wednesday for their participation in the Madrid train bombings have subsequently begun a hunger strike in protest against the sentence. The prisoners refusing food, who are now distributed around different prisons in Spain, include Jamal Zougam and Otman el Gnaoui who both received heavy sentences in the verdict; as well as Basel Ghalyoun and Fouad El Morabit. There was a hunger strike during the trial as well, but it collapsed quickly as it became clear that it would have no effect on the proceedings. It is hard to see how the current hunger strike can achieve anything for those participating.

El País - Diez condenados por el 11-M inician una huelga de hambre

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Sentences

This is a listing of the verdict (and sentences where appropriate) for each of the 28 people who were still facing charges at the end of the trial.

Jamal Zougam – Charged by the prosecution with being a material author – one of those placing the bombs on the trains – he was found guilty and sentenced to a total of 42,922 years imprisonment based on a multiplier of the sentence of murder of 191 people and attempted murder of a further 1856.

Otman el Gnaoui – Also charged with being a material author, he was sentenced to a total of 42,924 years imprisonment

Emilio Suárez Trashorras – Found guilty of being a necessary collaborator through the provision of the explosives used in the bombs, Trashorras was sentenced to 34,715 years imprisonment. The multiplier used was based on 192 dead (including the policeman killed in Leganés) and 1991 attempted murders (this figure includes those present in the apartment block in Leganés at the time of the explosion there).

Hamid Ahmidam – Sentenced to 23 years for membership of a terrorist group and for offences related to drug trafficking.

Rachid Aglif – 18 years imprisonment for membership of a terrorist group and explosives offences.

Abdelmajid Bouchar – Charged as a material author by the prosecution, he was only found guilty of belonging to a terrorist group and explosives offences. Sentenced to 18 years imprisonment.

Hassan el Haski – The prosecution alleged he was an intellectual author of the bombings, one of those involved in the ideological preparation of the attacks. He was found not guilty of this offence but sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for his membership of the Moroccan Islamic Combat Group.

Basel Ghalyoun – Sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for belonging to a terrorist group

Mohamed Bouharrat – Also sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for membership of a terrorist group.

Youssef Belhadj – Charged as an intellectual author, the court found him not guilty of that offence but sentenced him to 12 years imprisonment for membership of a terrorist group.

Mohamed Larbi Ben Sellam – Found guilty of belonging to a terrorist group and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. Acquited on conspiracy charges.

Fouad el Morabit – Sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for membership of a terrorist group.

Mouhannad Almallah Dabas – Sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for membership of a terrorist group.

Saed el Harrak - Sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for membership of a terrorist group.

Rafa Zouhier – The prosecution charged him with being a necessary collaborator for his part in facilitating the supply of the explosives. The court rejected this, but sentenced him to 10 years imprisonment for explosives trafficking.

Abdelilah el Fadoual el Akil – Sentenced to 9 years imprisonment for collaborating with a terrorist group.

Raúl González – Sentenced to 5 years imprisonment for explosives trafficking.

Nasredine Bousbaa – Sentenced to 3 years imprisonment for forgery of documents. Found not guilty of collaboration with a terrorist group.

Mahmoud Slimane Aoun – Sentenced to 3 years imprisonment for forgery of official documents. He has already served this sentence whilst awaiting trial. Not guilty of collaborating with a terrorist group.

Iván Reis Palicio – Sentenced to 3 years imprisonment for explosives trafficking.

Sergio Álvarez – Sentenced to 3 years imprisonment for explosives trafficking.

The following defendants were found not guilty:

Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed – Charged with being an intellectual author, the court found him not guilty and given that he is already sentenced in Italy for membership of a terrorist group this charge was also dropped.

Antonio Toro – Charged by the prosecution of being a collaborator in the supply of the explosives.

Carmen Toro – Charged with explosives trafficking.

Emilio Llano – Charged with collaborating in trafficking explosives.

Mohamed Moussaten – Charged with collaboration with a terrorist group

Javier González – Charged with explosives trafficking and illicit association.

Iván Granados - Charged with explosives trafficking and illicit association.

The Trial....The Verdict Is Announced

In a little over 50 minutes yesterday morning, the presiding judge Javier Gómez Bermúdez read a summary of the verdict in the trial of the 28 people still accused of having participated in the train bombings. His summary included reasons for rejecting defence allegations on procedures or evidence, a description of the court’s findings on the main evidence, details of compensation for the victims of the bombings, and the verdict on each of the accused. What follows here is my own summary, to be followed in the next few days by more detailed examination of different aspects of the verdict. There are 600 pages of the sentence to work my way through, it will take some time.

In the end only 3 of those accused have received the huge accumulated prison sentences that come from being found responsible for the murder of the 192 victims or the attempted murder of the 1841 recognised victims. Of these 3, Jamal Zougam and Otman el Gnaoui have been convicted of being material authors of the bombings; that is they were part of the group that planted the bombs on the trains. Emilio Suárez Trashorras was also sentenced as a necessary collaborator through his role in providing the explosives used in the bombs. It should be pointed out that a sentence of thousands of years in prison never means more than 40 years maximum in Spain.

Of the others found guilty, 12 have been sentenced to terms ranging from 12 to 23 years in prison for belonging to a terrorist group and related offences. This group includes some, Hassan el Haski, Abdelmajid Bouchar and Youssef Belhadj, who faced potentially much larger sentences as a result of being accused of being material or intellectual authors of the bombings. Rafa Zouhier also faced charges similar to those of Trashorras, but in the end he was only sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for explosives trafficking. There were 5 other convictions with terms of 3-5 years for offences relating to explosives trafficking or forgery of documentation. In total, 21 of the 28 accused have been found guilty.

Of the 7 who were acquitted, 5 belong to the group around Trashorras and include his former wife and her brother. Mohamed Moussaten, whose brother Brahim had already had charges dropped against him, was also freed. Finally there was the headline grabbing acquittal of Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed, charged with being an intellectual author and facing one of the huge sentences that correspond to this charge. He receives no sentence at all in Spain having been found not guilty on the authorship charge and due to the fact that he is already serving a sentence in Italy for membership of a terrorist group.

Given that most of the accused have been found guilty, it follows that the court accepted the main arguments of the prosecution case. The sentence declares that the greater part, if not all, of the explosives used in the train bombs came from the Mina Conchita in Asturias. It accepts as valid the unexploded bomb that was recovered from one of the trains at the station of El Pozo. The Renault Kangoo van alleged to have been used to transport the bombs and the people who placed them is accepted as valid evidence, although only to the extent that it was used by the number of people (3) seen getting out of it by a witness on the morning of the bombings. The account of events that occurred in Leganés on April 3rd 2004 is accepted in full by the tribunal. Gómez Bermúdez also dedicated part of his summary to the question of ETA participation in the bombings, and what we got is a list of reports by the police demonstrating that ETA is nowhere to be found. Not a single one of the conspiracy theorist allegations on ETA involvement has been accepted by the tribunal.

What were the surprises? For me, the not-guilty verdict on the alleged “intellectual authors” is not one of them. At times during the trial I was wondering whether I had missed some key evidence that firmly demonstrated the connection of Hassan el Haski or Youssef Belhadj to the planning of the bombings. The case of Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed is a little different, but as I will argue later in more detail he benefited from an effective defence, something which others amongst the accused cannot claim to have had. Both El Haski and Belhadj have been convicted on other offences, and Ahmed has escaped a similar fate because he is already imprisoned in Italy. The sentence on Adelmajid Bouchar was surprisingly light given that he was almost caught leaving the Leganés apartment, and his subsequent flight across Europe seemed to depend on a network of support. In the end there seems to be no evidence placing him on the trains. There is also some surprise about the complete acquittal of Antonio and Carmen Toro given their close relationship to Emilio Suárez Trashorras.

So the lucky ones are the Toro’s, Rafa Zouhier, Bouchar and Ahmed. The latter has had a particularly good week, with his sentence in Italy being reduced from 10 to 8 years as well. Many of the victims are understandably upset with the acquittals and lower sentences than were expected for many of the accused. However, the reality is that most of those who would have received harsh sentences for the massacre either died in Leganés or escaped. In the end the police cast their net very wide and it is hardly surprising that some of those linked by association only should walk free. Is it a good verdict? In general I think so, I’m not someone who has ever been uncritical of either the judicial system or the police, I’ve seen enough cases to persuade me that it’s always wise to critically examine their activities. However, in this case I think the court has done what it was supposed to do.

The chess players, of course, will not agree and will be tremendously disappointed with the result; not surprising given that they had actively sought the collapse of the case against the accused. As a consolation, they have seized on the absence of an identified “intellectual author”, in the upside down world of conspiracy theorist logic the freeing of someone accused of being an intellectual author means that the “real” authors are still out there somewhere. They now claim that the investigation must continue until an intellectual author is uncovered. This camouflaged retreat is accompanied by outrageously false claims that they never supported the theory of ETA involvement anyway. There will be no admission that they were wrong, those behind this shameful campaign have always known their claims were false and they will continue to try and cast doubt on the verdict in any way possible.

Guardian - 21 guilty, seven cleared over Madrid train bombings
BBC - Madrid bombers get long sentences
Washington Post - 3 Guilty of Mass Murder in Madrid Attack
New York Times - 7 Are Acquitted in Madrid Bombings
Daily Telegraph - Men behind Madrid bombs laugh in court

ABC - Sólo islamistas, sólo Goma 2 de Trashorras
ABC - La verdad judicial confirma las informaciones de ABC
Público - Ni etarras, ni Titadyne, ni conspiración
Público - La sentencia del 11-M descarta la implicación de ETA en los atentados y condena a 21 de los 28 procesados
El País - La mentira, condenada
El País - El tribunal descarta a ETA y achaca los atentados a una célula 'yihadista'
El Mundo - ETA, Irak, Zougam, el explosivo... y otras claves de la sentencia del 11-M
El Mundo - El final del principio en la investigación del 11-M