Expatica news

Belgian link to Madrid bomb

18 March 2004

BRUSSELS – The videotape which claims Islamic terrorist network Al Qaeda was behind the 11 March bomb attacks in Madrid was “very probably” recorded in Brussels or Amsterdam, it was reported Thursday.

Abu Dujan al-Afgani, the man who appeared on the video and claimed to be Al Qaeda’s European head of military operations, has been living among “radical Moroccan groups” in either the Belgian or Dutch capital.

The claims were made in Spanish newspaper El Periódico, which based its report on sources in the Moroccan security services, Belgian news agency Belga reported.

The Spanish newspaper also said the bombers were probably financed from Madrid, but the Telegraaf cited Moroccan officials involved in the war against terror who believe the attacks were financed and prepared in Brussels.

The hunt for al-Afgani is centred on Brussels, which authorities believe has been the operating base for hardcore r1adical Muslims from Morocco since the 1980s. Security experts say that branches of the group are also living in Amsterdam.

Terror group, the Abi Hafs el-Masri Brigades — which has been linked to Al-Qaeda — is the main suspect for the Madrid attacks.

The discovery of the videotape came after the arrest on 13 March of five men in connection with the bomb attacks. Three Moroccans and two Indians were detained in Madrid, authorities said.
In the videotape, the man calling himself Abu Duhan al-Afgani and speaking Arabic said the attacks were revenge for “the criminal Bush and his allies”.
The tape was discovered after an anonymous tip-off to a Madrid television station. Al-Afgani promised more attacks and said “you want life and we want death”.

A series of bombs exploded on four passenger trains in and around Madrid on 11 March killing 202 people and injuring more than 1,000.

Initially, the government of Prime Minister Josa Maria Aznar — who was a staunch supporter of the US-led war in Iraq despite the opposition of an estimated 90 percent of the population — downplayed suggestions Al Qaeda was behind the atrocity. He tried to blame the Basque separatist group ETA instead.

Then in the early morning of Sunday 14 March as the nation prepared to go to the polls in a general election, Spanish Interior Minister Angel Acebes held a press conference to announce the existence of the videotape.

The shifting of suspicion from ETA to Al Qaeda lost Aznar’s Popular Party the election and handed victory to Socialist candidate Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

Prime Minister-elect Zapatero has vowed to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq, much to the chagrin of US President George Bush.

In the latest development, London-based Arab newspaper al-Hayat said on 17 March it had received a statement in which Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades claimed in was calling a truce in its “Spanish operations” to see if Zapatero will follow through on his pledge to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Belgian news, Madrid bomb attacks