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.



1 comment:

Colin said...

Graeme,

I caught the final part of a BBC4 documentary on the bombings last week. Seemed informative and balanced.