Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Explosives And The Contaminated Samples

I wasn't intending to write any more on this blog about the issue of the explosives used in the train bombings, I've already covered the issue in some detail before and there have been no significant developments. But then a couple of days ago a Google Alert I have set for news on the Madrid bombings caught my eye, and I found something that potentially sheds light on a genuine mystery to do with the analysis of the explosives used in the bombs.

When the analysis of the samples recovered from the bomb sites and other locations associated with the attacks was carried out for the trial, some curious results were returned. Traces were found of substances that are not present in the dynamite which was used in the train bombs, Goma-2 Eco. The conspiracy theorists have made a great deal of these unexpected findings, indeed their whole case that a different explosive was used in the attacks is based around this data. In particular, they have used the detection of nitroglycerine in one sample from one of the bombed trains to argue that the explosive used must have been Titadine, and in the process keeping alive the allegation that ETA were somehow involved in the bombings. Nitroglycerine is not a component of Goma-2 Eco and is for at least one type of Titadine, an explosive often used by ETA in the past.

Another substance not present in Goma-2 Eco but which is a component of Titadine, dinitrotoluene (DNT), was also detected in the same sample. A problem for the conspiracy theorists, however, has always been the fact that the same substance was also revealed in the tests on samples of Goma-2 Eco that were recovered from different sites connected with the bombings. No definitive explanation was ever established at the time of the trial for what appeared to be some kind of contamination of the samples. Suggestions were made that contamination could have occurred in the factory, in the Asturian mine where the explosives used were stolen, or in the storage facilities used by the police. 

The conspiracy theorists would have none of this, as any credible theory of contamination wrecks their insistence on Titadine having been used in the bombs. Numerous pages of El Mundo and even a whole book have been produced all based around the slender proposition that a tiny trace of nytroglycerine proves their theory. But then the only explanation they have been able to offer for the contamination of the other samples has been that someone sneaked into the place where the explosives samples were being held and deliberately contaminated them! Evidence for this assertion? Don't ask, we're back in the territory of imagination.

All of this brings me to the reason for this new post. In the real world of science where theories are tested there has been some interesting work done. The study described in this link has tested whether any cross-contamination could occur between explosives samples held in polyethylene bags at the police storage facility. The results, which included tests with DNT, have demonstrated that volatile components of explosives can escape from these bags. Not only that, but traces of these components over time can enter into other bags containing different substances. 

The importance of this study is twofold. Firstly, it suggests that the storage method used by the police at the time of the bombings was not sufficiently secure as samples of different explosives could have been held in the same place and cross-contamination could occur. Secondly, it might be the explanation for why substances like DNT were not identified in the samples immediately following the bombings, but did show up in the tests carried out 3 years later for the trial. Presumably the tests carried out by the scientists for this research are reproducible and therefore verifiable. Precisely the kind of test that those who still persevere with more bizarre explanations will be keen to avoid. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wikileaks And The Madrid Bombings

The US diplomatic cables from Spain released by Wikileaks contain little unknown information about the Madrid bombings, but they do shed some light on the handling of the bombings by the government in power at the time. On the day of the bombings, March 11th 2004, it is clear that the US embassy in Madrid believed the story coming from the Spanish government that that attack was the work of the Basque group ETA. What is emphasised in the cable sent from the embassy is the intense diplomatic pressure from the Aznar administration to consider only the possibility of ETA authorship.

The cable was sent just before 2 p.m. on the day of the train bombings, before any of the key evidence of Islamist responsibility started to emerge. It quotes the then interior minister, Angel Acebes, as saying "I will not accept the intolerable assertion by those who try to divert the culpability to other groups." At this point on that day virtually the only person publicly suggesting Islamist responsibility was Arnaldo Otegi, a leader of ETA's political wing Batasuna. The cable states that the Madrid embassy received direct contacts from Aznar's office to say that the government was sure that ETA was responsible. "They request that the USG support this in its declarations and not express any doubt in public comments about the party responsible."

When the US ambassador spoke to Spain's foreign minister, Ana Palacio, she additionally requested that all references to ETA should describe them as "ETA terrorists" rather than "Basque separatists". This is a long standing demand of many Spaniards who appear to believe that reality is determined solely by the language you choose to describe it, and who constantly pressure international media groups to always describe ETA as terrorists. The cable comment section does not dispute the Spanish government's assertions regarding ETA but does note that such an attack by them represents a major shift in their modus operandi. It concludes by recognising that the government might benefit politically from ETA being held responsible, whereas any doubt about authorship could focus attention on the disastrous Spanish involvement in the Iraq war. The key issue at the heart of the Spanish government's handling of the bombings in the days between March 11th and the election on March 14th.

A few days later, on the 15th March, a further cable recognises that the focus of the investigation has now shifted to Al-Qaeda and describes the first arrests that were made by following the trail of the mobile phones used to detonate the train bombs. The cable also records the recovery on March 13th of the video tape in which a claim of responsibility was made for the Madrid  attacks. Later on in 2004 the political fallout from the bombings was captured in a cable describing how the former prime minister José Maria Aznar was kept out of the Partido Popular's campaign for the European elections because he was seen as being "too radioactive to help in the campaign." 

Then, in 2006, a cable updating the situation on terrorism related cases makes reference to the campaign behind the conspiracy theories concerning the bombings. The cable states "a segment of the opposition Popular Party (PP) and the newspaper El Mundo continue to allege a Socialist party conspiracy and cover up and claim that the Basque terrorist group ETA had some link with the March 11 attacks." It goes on to note that the attitude of the PP is slowing the pace of the prosecution of those charged with the bombings. These cables were issued under the Bush administration which was far more favourable towards the Aznar government than the successor one led by Zapatero. A real coup for Wikileaks would of course be the release of the documentation concerning the bombings that was either  removed or destroyed by Aznar's government before leaving office. That would have much to tell us about the days between March 11th and the 14th 2004. 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Those That Got Away

Several suspects connected by the Spanish police to the Madrid train bombings have never been captured, as they fled Spain in the aftermath of the bombings. In one or two cases it was thought that the fugitives may have ended up in Iraq. Now it turns out that at least one of these, Mohamed Belhadj, has been living in Syria. This is the person who is accused of having rented the apartment in Leganés that was used as a hideout by the cell responsible for the bombings. Belhadj has now been extradited to his native country, Morocco, and is expected to stand trial in this country for his alleged participation in the bombings. Morocco does not extradite its own citizens to other countries, which explains why Belhadj will not end up on trial in Spain.

Other recent reports have suggested that the escape of the fugitives was not as difficult as might have been thought given the massive investigation launched by the police following the bombings. It seems that another of those who escaped, Daoud Ouhnane, stayed for some time in a house in Santa Coloma de Gramanet (near Barcelona) that was under police surveillance as part of an investigation into Islamist terrorism. Those entering and leaving the building were being secretly filmed, yet Ouhnane was not recognised. This was despite him being one of the most wanted people in Spain at the time. The train bombings were made much easier to carry out as a result of mistakes or incompetence on the part of different police forces, most notably in the area of control over explosives. Nevertheless, it is quite shocking to find that someone wanted for their participation in the attacks can be filmed a short time after in the context of a similar investigation and yet not be identified.

El País - Rubalcaba admite que la Policía filmó pero no identificó a uno de los huidos del 11-M
ABC - Marruecos envía a prisión a Mohamed Belhadj, un presunto implicado en los atentados del 11-M

Reuters - Morocco detains Islamist over links to Madrid bombs

El Haski Loses His Appeal

Hassan el Haski has in the end received a sentence of 10 years imprisonment in Morocco for his alleged participation in the Casablanca bombings of 2003. Although he was initially found not guilty of these charges, a court of appeal in the Moroccan city of Sale has overturned this decision. El Haski is of course one of those sentenced as a result of the Madrid bombings trial.

Marruecos también condena a El Haski a diez años de cárcel

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Madrid Train Bombings....Five Years On

I still remember very clearly the day of the Madrid train bombings, the 5th anniversary passed just last week. The impact of what happened on the 11th March 2004 was tremendous, and even though I was away from my adopted home city at the time I still picked up much of the atmosphere of a city in shock. Then came the reaction, and the subsequent rise in tension as it became clear over the following couple of days that the Spanish government was still trying to maintain that ETA were responsible for the bombings even as clear evidence of Islamist authorship was emerging. I watched live on CNN the footage of the demonstration outside of the headquarters of the governing Partido Popular on the day before the general election; images which I believe many people in Spain never got to see.

That day, March 14th, was a turning point. The administration led by Jose Maria Aznar was thrown out of office on a wave of indignation over their attempts to mislead public opinion for short term electoral benefit. That should have been the end of attempts to use the Madrid bombings for political advantage. Unfortunately it was just the beginning. On the same day that the outgoing caretaker government handed over power to the new administration the first article of what were to develop into the conspiracy theories about the bombings appeared in El Mundo. That marked the beginning of a still unfinished campaign that seeks to use the bombings as an instrument of political revenge for the election result that followed.

Now conspiracy theories surrounding terrorist attacks are common, particularly in cases when many of the perpetrators are dead or missing. The difference in the case of Spain is that the conspiracy theorists had the full backing of the principal opposition party and the second biggest selling daily newspaper in the country. You have to try and imagine a situation where the Democrats and any major media outlet accuse the Bush administration of organising 9-11. Or where the Conservatives in Britain claim that the 2005 bombings in London were the work of an alliance between Tony Blair, the IRA and foreign intelligence services. In short, the reaction of those who were caught out trying to manipulate public opinion was to try and do more of the same; but on a bigger scale!

I’d never witnessed anything quite like it anywhere. I know of course that there are those who regard a major terrorist attack as a political opportunity, there is sadly no shortage of examples, but the campaign organised in Spain was still quite shocking. There was a sustained attempt to discredit both the investigation into the bombings and the subsequent trial, the objective always being to sow the maximum doubt possible about the authorship of the attacks. It failed, in the sense that the trial proceeded and that sentences were handed down as recorded on this blog. It succeeded in the sense that many people today in Spain have accepted at least some of the grotesque distortion of events sold by the conspiracy theorists. In the process, those behind these theories have created the kind of sectarian divide where some victims of the bombings are denied funding from the regional government of Madrid because they refuse to subscribe to the conspiracy theories. Nothing is too shameful for those responsible for such decisions; they still turn out to “commemorate” each anniversary.

Things have quietened down since the general election of 2008, when the opposition PP finally realised that accusing the Spanish Prime Minister of complicity with terrorists wasn’t going to be their route back to power. Since then, the media outlets behind the conspiracy theories have found themselves marginalised for choosing the wrong side in the PP’s internal power struggles. The foot soldiers of the campaign, the Peones Negros, have been reduced to a rump grouping that spend their days bemoaning the inability of the Spanish people to rise up against an imagined alliance between the left and regional nationalists to destroy the country.

But then came the anniversary. El Mundo could think of no better way to mark it than handing over their front page to Luis del Pino, leader of the Peones Negros, so that he could treat us to more examples of his particular journalistic technique. Del Pino’s big scoop was that Jamal Zougham (convicted as one of those who placed the bombs on the trains) had been in the gym the night before the bombings, when according to Del Pino he should have been busy preparing the bombs for the next day. Therefore he must be innocent. That’s about the standard of the conspiracy theories these days. There are also still books being published suggesting, but of course at no point demonstrating, the existence of a hidden hand behind the bombings. The now thoroughly discredited attempts to implicate ETA in the bombings have been given a new twist by the chess players, so very, very clever were the true perpetrators that they left false clues pointing toward ETA involvement.

This blog was never really intended to be an account of the train bombings, although obviously it has been necessary to enter into occasionally minute detail on aspects of what happened 5 years ago. However, the main focus has always been on what drove me to create it in the first place, the political abuse of terror. The blog isn’t quite finished yet, there are still trials taking place with a direct or indirect relation to what happened in Madrid. Also, there are a few posts waiting to be written on some of the myths propagated by those who thought the horrible death of almost 200 people provides a suitable platform for combining politics and business in the same neat package.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

El Haski Found Not Guilty In Morocco

Hassan el Haski, already serving a jail term in Spain for terrorist activities, was found not guilty last week of accusations that he was involved in the Casablanca bombings in 2003. The court in Morocco decided that there was insufficient evidence to convict him. The question now arises of whether El Haski will be allowed to serve the rest of his Spanish sentence in Morocco, his home country. There is an agreement between Spain and Morocco to permit this, but that does not necessarily mean it will be applied in this case.

In another Moroccan trial held in December and directly related to the Madrid bombings, Abdelilah Hriz received a sentence of 20 years imprisonment for membership of a terrorist organisation. The main evidence against him was based on DNA samples which were found in different sites linked to the train bombings.

READ MORE IN ENGLISH: - Madrid train bomb plotter jailed for 20 years

Europa Press - Un tribunal marroquí absuelve a Hasan el Haski, condenado en España por el 11-M
El País - Abdelilá Hriz condenado a 20 años en Marruecos por su participación en el 11-M
Europa Press - Abdelilá Hriz, condenado a 20 años de cárcel en Marruecos por su implicación en los atentados

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Focus Shifts To Morocco

Three separate stories connected to those accused of involvement in the Madrid bombings have made the news in recent weeks; and they all have a Moroccan connection. Several weeks ago Hassan el Haski, sentenced in the Madrid trial for membership of a terrorist organisation, was handed over to the Moroccan authorities to face trial over charges that he particpated in the Casablanca bombings in 2003. El Haski was said by the prosecution in Madrid to be a leading member of the Morrocan Islamic Combat Group.

Then last week saw the sentence in the case against Hicham Ahmidan, a cousin of Jamal Ahmidan - one of the principal leaders of the group that carried out the Madrid bombings. Hicham was found guilty by a Moroccan court of being involved in the preparation of the Madrid attacks and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The prosecution had requested a 20 year sentence. Ahmidan was already serving a sentence in Morocco for drugs related offences and was said by the Spanish investigating magistrate to have left Spain days before the train bombings took place. Morocco does not extradite its own citizens, and for this reason Ahmidan was tried in his home country rather than in Spain.

Finally, the trial of Abdelilah Hriz also saw its preliminary hearing in Salé this week. Hriz is one of those who were not captured in the intiial aftermath of the bombings, but whose DNA has been detected in key sites related to the Madrid attacks. He is regarded as being potentially one of the group who actually carried out the bombings. His trial has been deferred for 2 weeks at the request of the defence to have more time to prepare their case.

READ MORE IN ENGLISH: - Spain approves train bomber extradition to Morocco
International Herald Tribune - Moroccan sentenced over links to Madrid bombings

Público - España concede a Marruecos la extradición de El Haski, condenado por el 11-M
Europa Press - Condenado en Marruecos a Hicham Ahmidan por su implicación en el 11-M
Europa Press - 11-M.- Manjón denuncia que "al hijo de 'El Chino' le besan los pies en la mezquita de la M-30 por ser hijo de un mártir"

Saturday, October 25, 2008

El Egipcio Loses His Italian Appeal

The beginning of October saw a development which has an impact on the trial for the Madrid bombings. Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed (nicknamed El Egipcio) had his sentence for membership of a terrorist group confirmed by the Italian courts. Although many people believe that El Egipcio was completely absolved in the trial held in Madrid, it’s important to point out that his Italian conviction was the reason why no sentence at all was delivered against him in Spain. He was found not guilty in Madrid of the charges of inducing others to commit terrorist acts, and the court decided that they could not sentence him for membership of a terrorist group because the Italians had already done so. In the appeals process following the main trial it was argued that the charge against El Egipcio in Spain was not exactly the same as that in the Italian case and that the Italian verdict was not a firm one, leaving open the possibility of him escaping conviction there too. These arguments were not accepted by the Spanish appeals court, who ruled that the Italian sentence precluded any possibility of finding El Egipcio guilty on a similar charge. The main evidence against him in the Spanish trial was that gathered by Italian police using electronic surveillance.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Appeals Against The Sentence

In between the hearings and the verdict of the boric acid case, the Supreme Court in Spain heard all of the appeals concerning the sentence in the main trial for the Madrid train bombings. The outcome of those appeals has been announced this morning and contains some significant rulings for several of the accused. In the Spanish legal system an appeal cannot be lodged to re-examine the evidence presented in the original trial. Instead the appeal is focused on the correctness of the sentence for the crime, or on other legal technicalities.

The state prosecution service did not support most of the appeals presented, and the case they presented to the Supreme Court was mostly one of support for the sentence delivered at the end of October 2007. An important exception to this was the appeal against the absolution of Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed (known as El Egipcio). This person escaped a sentence last year for membership of a terrorist group on the grounds that he had already been sentenced for the same offence in Italy. The prosecution appealed this verdict on the basis that the sentence in Italy had not yet been confirmed, and also alleging that the basis for the Italian conviction was not the same as that presented by Spanish prosecutors. The court today has rejected this appeal, so El Egipcio has in the end not been convicted of any offence in Spain.

The Supreme Court has also decided to free some of those convicted in the original trial for offences related to terrorism. Basel Ghalyoun, Mouhannad Almallah Dabas, Abdelilah el Fadoual el Akil and Raúl González have all been absolved in today’s hearing. None of these were accused of being direct material participants in the bombings; González in particular was a bit player in the trafficking of the explosives used in the bombs. However, the freeing of Ghalyoun and Almallah Dabas is something of a blow to the case presented concerning the use of the dwelling in the Madrid street of Virgen del Coro as a centre for Islamist propaganda and recruitment.

The only person to come out worse from the appeals process is Antonio Toro, who was found not guilty in the original trial, along with his sister Carmen. Both were accused of being active participants in the plot to sell the dynamite used in the train bombings. The Supreme Court has found Antonio Toro guilty of explosives trafficking and sentenced him to four years imprisonment. There has been no change to the sentence for Rafa Zouhier, his defence claimed it was illogical for him to be sentenced whilst people like Toro were found not guilty. Those who appealed for a higher sentence for him argued the opposite case that he was a key figure in the trafficking and supply of the explosives.

Other minor changes include a reduction of two years for Otman el Gnaoui, who nevertheless faces a long time in prison as he was convicted of being one of those who placed the bombs. Hassan el Haski has had his sentence reduced by one year on the grounds that it exceeded the maximum for the offence on which he was convicted. Apart from these changes the great majority of the appeals lodged have been rejected by the court. So far I haven’t seen the sentence, when I have a chance to study it I hope to flesh out some of the details behind the court’s decisions. Although these hearings are the end of the process against most of those accused of the bombings, there is still some unfinished business including the trial of Moutaz Almallah Dabas, whose brother Mouhannad was set free today.

El País - El Supremo confirma la absolución de El Egipcio por la matanza del 11-M
Público - El Supremo confirma la absolución de 'El Egipcio' en el juicio por los atentados del 11-M

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Another Nail In The Coffin

Yesterday we got the verdict in the trial of the four senior police officers accused of falsifying a forensic report concerning the discovery of boric acid at the home of Hassan el Haski. Sanity prevailed, and the ridiculous charges were dismissed in a verdict that makes it absolutely clear no crime was committed. Just as they did with the sentence in the main trial for the Madrid train bombings, the conspiracy theorists pick at the wording of the verdict to see if there is anything there which they can twist in an effort to get some consolation from yet another blow to their attempts to cast doubt on the authorship of their bombings. From yesterday’s decision they have inevitably picked up on the view of the judges that the way in which the report was altered was irregular. This of course is a long way from saying that any offence has been committed, but the conspiracy theorist media use this conclusion to try and suggest that they have been at least partially vindicated. What they seek to avoid above all is any kind of admission that they may ever have been wrong in urging the conviction of the officers concerned.

The problem with their conclusion is that the court did not find any irregularity at all in the removal of the paragraphs concerning the finding of boric acid in an ETA safe house and the attempt to link this to the discovery in El Haski's house. It is this section of the report which is at the heart of the whole controversy. What the judges said was that the correct way to have proceeded would have been to assign a fresh report to another specialist, rather than the superior officer changing the original one himself. The omission of the data relating to ETA is not only not considered irregular, the verdict actually explains in considerable detail why this data was irrelevant to the purpose of the report. The judges make clear that they regard the section as unfounded speculation, lacking in scientific rigour and which could only produce confusion. After all, this document was supposed to be a forensic analysis of the substance found, boric acid, this was what was requested by the investigating officers from their forensic colleagues. If the accused had attempted to change the results of the chemical analysis then there would be cause for concern, but this is not what happened. The judges also pointed out in their reasoning the total lack of any evidence relating boric acid to any past terrorist activity and that the inclusion of the references to previous discoveries of this substance added nothing at all to the investigation of the Madrid bombings. The verdict describes it as complementary information of little or no value.

Naturally none of the pro-conspiracy theory media sees any need to report such damning conclusions for yet another of their attempts to mix ETA with the bombings. TeleMadrid yesterday demonstrated how painful it is to recognise reality by focusing its report entirely on the question of the supposed irregularities. El Mundo takes the manipulation a stage further than Telemadrid. Their edition this morning carried a headline that is not just manipulation of the verdict, it is manifestly false. They claim that the forensic police have been accused of being untruthful by the court in order to avoid linking ETA to the bombings. The word that appears in quotes in their headline, “inveraz”, doesn’t actually appear at all in the document of the verdict although El Mundo attempts to pretend it is citing that source. The only point at which the verdict questions the truthfulness of what was done is over the issue of one of the accused putting his name on the report for an analysis which he hadn’t carried out himself. The verdict itself makes clear that this is not that unusual a practice, and given that the officer concerned accepted the findings of the original chemical analysis there was no reason for him to repeat it. From such tiny crumbs El Mundo attempts to deceive its readers about what has really happened. Not surprising, because the whole sorry, crazy affair began with them.

The verdict of the court
El Mundo - La Policía Científica fue 'inveraz' para no vincular a ETA con el 11-M
El País - Los policías no cometieron falsedad; las modificaciones eran "inocuas"

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Too Much Acid Damages The Brain

One of the most bizarre and ridiculous creations of those behind the conspiracy theories about the Madrid bombings has returned to haunt us, several months after the end of the trial. The case against several senior senior police officers accused of manipulating official reports began yesterday in Madrid. The background to this trial begins with a police report produced following the search of the residence of Hassan el Haski, one of those sentenced in the main trial last year. The police report focused on the finding of a quantity of boric acid in El Haski's home. The "specialists" preparing the report did some investigation in their databases and found that the same substance had also previously been recovered from a house used by an ETA commando and in a case concerning what the Spanish press refer to as an "anti-system" activist. There was no relationship between the different cases, and more importantly there is no evidence linking the presence of boric acid to the activities of any of those detained. Boric acid is sold openly and legally over the counter in Spain for a variety of uses including reduction of foot odour and killing cockroaches.

Despite the absence of any data linking the different cases the initial report produced by the police attempted to suggest that there could be a connection between the finding of boric acid in El Haski's home, and in that used some years earlier by the ETA commando. This speculative piece of guesswork was removed from the final report on the orders of superior officers. It's not hard to find good motives for doing so, given the lack of any connection between a common household substance and terrorist activities. It is reasonably likely that coffee was also present in the residences searched in these different cases, but no one would have looked favourably at a report suggesting connections between Islamists and ETA just because of the discovery of that substance.

However, with the conspiracy theorists busily working to undermine the case against those accused of the bombings in 2006, strange things started to happen. The officers responsible for the original report oddly decided to try and resubmit their original report over a year after it had first been prepared, speculative nonsense about boric acid included. The attempt failed, but the report then quickly found its way to El Mundo who immediately led in typical style with a story claiming that there were attempts to suppress evidence of ETA connections to the Madrid bombings. Supporters of the conspiracy theories then presented an accusation alleging falsification of official documentation against senior officers and managed to manoeuvre the handling of the case so that it would be dealt with by a judge in Madrid with known conservative sympathies.

The case has now come to court and will be tried even though the state prosecution service regards the accusation as completely unfounded. The accusation is instead being sustained by the usual suspects, pro conspiracy theory victims associations and their political allies. Anyone found guilty of the charges faces a potential prison sentence, yet it seems hard to believe that such an outcome is possible even with the known politicisation of the Spanish judicial system. Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of judicial issues pile up in a system that is acknowledged to be failing to serve its purpose. Yet cases such as this one, which owe their existence solely to the determination of the conspiracy theorists to press anything that has even the most tenuous of connections to ETA, are allowed to proceed and clog up the courts.

El País - El policía que quitó las alusiones a ETA en un informe del 11-M dice que "eran absurdas"
El Mundo - Ramírez exculpa al comisario Santano y asume que alteró el informe del ácido bórico

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Abdelilah Hriz To Stand Trial

In my last post I wrote about efforts by the Spanish authorities to put Abdelilah Hriz on trial as a material author of the Madrid bombings. It now seems as if the Moroccan authorities have agreed to take action against Hriz - extradition is not permitted but he can be tried on Moroccan soil for crimes committed in Spain. Genetic traces matching the DNA of Hriz were found in the ruins of the apartment in Leganés where the nucleus of the group responsible for the bombings blew themselves up on the 3rd April 2004.

El País - Marruecos detiene e interroga a petición de España a un presunto autor material del 11M

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Accused But Not On Trial

Whilst the appeals following the sentence in the train bombings trial are now pending, it is worth recalling that there are still some accused of participation in the attack who have not yet faced trial. One of these, Moutaz Almallah Dabas, is being held on remand in Spain following his extradition from the United Kingdom last year. He is the brother of Mouhannad Almallah Dabas, who was one of those convicted in the main trial.

There is now concern about the delay in bringing Almallah Dabas to trial for his part in the bombings. This is because he has already been held in prison for around 3 years if the period in the UK is included too, and Spanish law does not permit anyone to be held for longer than 4 years if they have not been convicted of an offence within that period. So it seems quite likely that the trial of Almallah Dabas will be held reasonably soon to try and avoid a situation where he must be released from prison.

There are also international detention orders in force against Abdelilah Hriz (accused of being one of those who actively participated in the attack as a material author), and Hicham Ahmidan (accused of being part of the terrorist cell). Both of these are Morrocan citizens and are both currently in Morocco itself. This country does not extradite its citizens to Spain, so the Spanish authorities are attempting to persuade the Moroccan authorities to try them there for crimes committed on Spanish soil. In the meantime, the international orders remain in force in case either of the 2 men travels outside of Morocco.

El País - Un islamista del 11-M saldrá de la cárcel si no es juzgado en breve
El País - La Audiencia mantiene la orden internacional de captura de Hriz

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Deadline For Appeals Approaches

The deadline for appeals to be lodged against the sentence for the train bombings runs out in early January. According to a report yesterday in El País there may be as many as 29 appeals presented. This number includes appeals by defendants as well as those by the prosecution or by parties to the prosecution.

In the case of those who have been sentenced for participation in the bombings the appeal process in Spain does not give them a second bite at the cherry. The appeal cannot revise all of the prosecution case against them, it can only deal with defects or errors in the original trial. Despite this limitation it appears that most of those convicted are going to appeal against their sentence.

The state prosecutors intend to appeal the absolution of Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed on the charges of membership of a terrorist group. He was not convicted of this offence because he has already been sentenced in Italy for the equivalent offence. According to El País the prosecution appeal will be based on the fact that the Italian sentence has not yet been confirmed (it is also awaiting appeal) and also may claim that the group with which the defendant associated in Spain is not the same as that of Italy.

Meanwhile the Asociación 11-M Afectados de Terrorismo which represents many of the victims of the attack, has indicated its intention of appealing against the absolution of some of the accused (Carmen and Antonio Toro), and also against what they consider to be light sentences for some of those convicted (including Rafa Zouhier and Abdelmajid Bouchar).

El País - El Supremo tendrá que resolver 29 recursos contra las condenas del 11-M

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Judge Condemned

One characteristic of the political campaign organised around the Madrid bombings has been the manner in which the chess players turn on those who fail to do their bidding. Their treatment of the chief judge in the trial, Javier Gómez Bermúdez provides a perfect illustration of this behaviour. Until the day of the verdict Gómez Bermúdez was almost untouchable. The conspiracy theorists repeatedly expressed their confidence that the three judge tribunal would not fail to see through what they claim to be the obvious failings of the “official version”. Then came the 31st October, and the dreams of those who hoped for an open verdict and for the police to be accused of lying were shattered. The verdict accepted all of the main arguments of the prosecution and the key evidence in the case.

Shortly after the release of the verdict came the first suggestions from El Mundo and friends that the judge had sold his soul in return for unspecified guarantees of preferential treatment. Then things got worse, the journalist wife of Gómez Bermúdez has written a book on her husband and the trial. The wisdom of doing this can be open to question, but the decision by the conspiracy theorist media to run repeatedly on criticisms of this has much more to do with their decision to place the judge on their list of enemies. That they do this is a reminder that behind the conspiracy theories are some powerful people, and they seek to abuse their power both to influence events and to try and destroy those who refuse to help their cause.

Hechos Probados....Evidence Found In Leganés

Evidence gathered by the police from the wreckage of the Leganés explosion included the remains of explosives, detonators, weapons, identity documents, other written documentation, books, video tapes, computers, storage devices and genetic traces of those who had been there.

More than 17 kilos of Goma 2 Eco dynamite was recovered, together with 238 detonators, and hundreds of wrappers and empty bags for this explosive. Many of these wrappers permitted identification of the production batch from the factory where the dynamite was made. All of the detonators had been manufactured by the Spanish company UEB (Unión Española-Ensing Bickford). In addition two Sterling sub machine guns were recovered as well as an ASTRA pistol.

Documentation was found in the names of Abdelmajid Bouchar (including a passport), Serhane ben Abdelmajid (a passport, residence card and driving licence), Abdennabi Kounjaa (identity card), and Rifaat Anouar (a passport and social security card). Also found were three false identity documents which had been manipulated by Nasredine Bousbaa on behalf of Jamal Ahmidan.

Various books were found with religious content, documents written in both Spanish and Arabic, and drafts of documents claiming responsibility for the train attacks or threatening fresh attacks. Also found were two video tapes recorded on the 27th March 2004 in which claims of responsibility for the train bombings were made by three persons who appeared with their faces covered. From a computer hard disk the police managed to recover files with Islamist content.

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