Five Suspect Identified In Spain Bombings

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Police identified five new Moroccan suspects in the Madrid train bombings, a newspaper reported Tuesday, and the death toll rose to 201.

A French investigator told The Associated Press, meanwhile, that he had found a direct link between prime suspect Jamal Zougam and the spiritual leader of a clandestine extremist group believed involved in last May's deadly attacks in Casablanca, Morocco.

Police believe the five new Moroccan suspects took part in the bombings, the newspaper El Pais reported, without identifying them by name. Interior Ministry spokesman Juan de Dios Colmenero said he could not confirm the report.

Since the attacks, investigators have focused on Zougam, a Moroccan immigrant who was arrested Saturday with two other Moroccans and two Indians.

El Pais' English edition said the Indians were released. But editors said later that those released were two Indian-born Spaniards picked up for questioning Saturday along with the five suspects, who remain in custody.

Incoming Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who was swept into power during elections Sunday, three days after the Madrid attacks, harshly criticized the Iraq war, which was supported by his predecessor, Jose Maria Aznar.

"I have said many times that the Iraq war was a great disaster, the occupation continues to be a disaster - it only generates more violence," Zapatero told radio station Cadena Ser on Monday.

Most Spaniards opposed Aznar's support of the Iraq war, and many believed he made Spain a target for terrorists by his pro-U.S. policies.

European Commission President Romano Prodi echoed those remarks in an interview published in Italy's La Stampa newspaper Monday, saying the U.S. approach to the war on terrorism had failed.

"On Saturday, it will be a year since the start of the war in Iraq and the terrorist threat is today infinitely more powerful than before," he said. "But Europe applies different instruments, suited to help our citizens leave fear behind: using politics and not just force, which has created further fear."

Police also said Tuesday they have detained an Algerian who allegedly talked about a terrorist attack in Madrid two months before it happened. Ali Amrous was picked up Monday in the Basque city of San Sebastian to learn if he had advance knowledge of Thursday's terrorist attacks in Madrid, police told the AP.

Amrous, an apparent indigent, was first arrested in January after a neighborhood disturbance and made the threatening comments while being questioned by police, saying that "we will fill Madrid with the dead," authorities said. They added that they doubted he was connected at a high level with any terrorist group but may have known about the attacks in advance.

He was expected to be brought to Madrid for questioning. Police said they did not believe Amrous had any contacts with the armed Basque separatist group ETA, which the government initially blamed for the attacks.

The death toll from Thursday's commuter train attacks in the Spanish capital rose to 201 with the death of a 45-year-old woman, authorities said. The toll is now one short of the 202 people killed in the 2002 nightclub bombing in Bali, Indonesia - the worst terrorist attack since Sept. 11.

A commemorative Mass for the victims was scheduled for Tuesday night at Madrid's Almudena Cathedral.

Zougam has already been identified by a Spanish judge as a follower of Imad Yarkas, the alleged leader of Spain's al-Qaida cell, who remains jailed on suspicion he helped plan the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

The bombs were triggered by cell phones, and investigators were able to find and arrest the three Moroccans and two Indians on Saturday because a cell-phone card was found in an unexploded bomb and traced.

Investigators scrambled to learn the scope of the operation that carried out the Madrid attacks.

A possible link between them and Casablanca gained credibility Tuesday after French investigator Jean-Charles Brisard said he has found a direct tie between Zougam and Mohamed Fizazi, a spiritual leader of Salafia Jihadia, which allegedly was behind the Casablanca attack and which has been linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terror network.

The suicide bombings in Casablanca killed 33 people and 12 bombers.

In a telephone call with Yarkas that Spanish police monitored in August 2001, Zougam said he had met with Fizazi, who was among 87 people sentenced in Morocco last August in a trial that centered on the Casablanca attacks. Fizazi received a 30-year sentence.

The monitored call is cited in an extensive report by investigative Judge Baltasar Garzon, who is probing the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, said Brisard, who spoke with the AP by telephone. Brisard has access to Garzon's documents because he is helping to probe the attacks for lawyers representing some of its victims' families.

The Garzon document says that in the monitored phone call, Zougam told Yarkas: "On Friday, I went to see Fizazi and I told him that if he needed money we could help him with our brothers," Brisard said.

Fizazi previously preached at a mosque in Hamburg, Germany, frequented by some of the hijackers who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks.

Zougam also has connections that possibly lead to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Moroccan official said. Al-Zarqawi is a key operative working with al-Qaida who has been blamed in attacks in Jordan, Iraq and elsewhere.

The other two arrested Moroccans are Zougam's half brother, Mohamed Chaoui, 34, and Mohamed Bekkali, 31.

Spanish radio station Cadena Ser reported Monday that police found a witness who saw Zougam on a train that was bombed. But Interior Minister Angel Acebes said authorities had no knowledge of a witness.

The radio, quoting unidentified police sources, said the witness said he saw Zougam on the train headed for Madrid's Atocha station, leaning against a door.

Both Cadena Ser and the newspaper El Pais reported that police believe Zougam actually left bombs on the train. Ibanez said there was no proof of that.

Zougam's alleged associations to terror suspects date back more than a decade, when he was introduced to Abdelaziz Benyaich in 1993, Moroccan authorities said. Benyaich, who has dual French and Moroccan citizenship, was arrested in Spain in 2003 in connection with the Casablanca bombings.

Morocco is seeking Benyaich's extradition and claims he has had contact with al-Zarqawi, whom German authorities reportedly believe was appointed by al-Qaida's leadership to arrange attacks in Europe.

Moroccan officials also believe al-Zarqawi ordered the attacks in Casablanca, and U.S. officials blamed al-Zarqawi for March 2 bombings in Iraq that killed at least 181 Shiite Muslim pilgrims. The Jordanian militant also is believed to have been behind the 2002 killing of Laurence Foley, a U.S. aid worker in Jordan.

Authorities have been tracking Islamic extremist activity in Spain since the mid-1990s and say it was an important staging ground, along with Germany, for the Sept. 11 attacks.


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