Madrid Train Bombing
In Madrid, Spain on 11 March 2004 ten explosions, packed into 13 rucksacks and detonated by cell phones, occured on four commuter trains at the height of rush hour killing 191 civilians and injuring over 1,800. Police also carried out a controlled demolition of 3 other explosive devices. The first group suspected of involvement was the Basque ETA, however investigations later focused on the Islamic extremist Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM). It was the deadliest attack on European civilians since the Lockerbie bombing of 1988. To date more than 70 men have been arrested in the bombing.
On April 3rd in an attempt to arrest two of the prime suspects Mohammed Oulad Akcha and Rachid Oulad Akcha, brothers; Spanish police raided a flat in the Madrid suburb of Leganes. Before the men could be arrested the two brothers and five other men set off an explosion in the apartment killing themselves and one police officer. One of the dead was Serhane ben Abdelmajid Fakhet, "The Tunisian," who police claim was the ringleader of the bombings.
- Other April 3rd Blast Deaths
- Sarhane ben Abdelmajid Fakhet ("El Tunecino")
- Jamal Ahmidan
- Allekema Lamari
- Mohammed Oulad Akcha
- Rachid Oulad Akcha
- Abdennabi Kounjaa
So far only one person has been convicted for involvement in the bombings. 22 of the 70 people arrested in the length of the investigation remain detained on provisional charges which, under Spanish law, requires a prosecution within two years of the arrest. Their are also two suspects detained overseas in relation to the investigations. The suspects while being predominately Moroccan, are also Algerian, Lebanese, and Spanish. Roughly seventeen of the suspected have been released.
The sole conviction is that of a 16 year old boy who authorities only refer to as El Gitanillo (Little Gypsy.) He was convicted of stealing and transporting the explosives used in the attack. He was sentenced on November 16, 2004 for six years in a juvenile detention center.
The AL-Qaida Connection
Al-Qaida does have a history in Spain where shortly after the attacks of September 11, 40 suspected members were arrested, with 12 later charged, and they still remain in custody.For a time Al-Qaida was suspected of masterminding the bombings, as Osama bin Laden had previously threatened Spain for participating in the Iraqi war by providing 1,300 soldiers. Prime Minister Aznar's decision to deploy forces to Iraq had been very unpopular in Spain. A connection exists between Al-Qaida and the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, however it is much more ambiuous.
A number of GICM members indicted in Spain are accused by European and North African counter-terrorism experts of having forged an alliance with Al-Qaeda, yet operating as an independent entity. A report by Moroccan prosecutors concerning the confessions of a senior member of GICM, Noureddine Nfia, who was convicted in relation to the Casablanca bombing of May 2003 stated that Nfia had met with Al-Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan during the summer of 2000. The report stated that GICM was looking for AL-Qaeda support for its operations and Zawahiri agreed to provide support in political and military campaigns.
In 2002 the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM) was placed on the United Nations list of terrorist organizations with ties to Al-Qaida. However, some European intelligence officials regard GICM as more of an ideological concept than that of a structrual organization. It is believed that Moroccans volunteers trained at camps in Afghanistan commonly associated with Al-Qaida, and by the end of the nineties those that had been trained there began refering to themselves as the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group. These same officials however state that it has no hierarchy, structure, or formal manifesto.
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