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Belgian ‘terrorist knew date of Madrid attacks’

Published on 08/08/2005

8 August 2005

BRUSSELS — Evidence continues to mount that the Madrid train bombings on 11 March 2004 were planned in Belgium by a group of terrorists who were under surveillance at the time by security service agents.

When Spanish police said shortly after the attacks that the video claiming responsibility for the attacks had been made in Brussels, the Belgium government angrily said there was no evidence to support this.

The attacks were claimed by a man called Abu Dujan, but Spanish and Belgian justice officials now suspect the name was an alias for Youssef Belhadj, a Moroccan man living in the Belgian town of Sint-Jans-Molenbeek since 2000.

Spanish justice authorities are increasingly convinced Belhadj was the key figure behind the attacks. They claim an analysis of his mobile phone indicates he knew the date of the Madrid attacks some five months before the bombings took place.

Belhadj bought a mobile phone in Brussels in October 2003 and gave as his date of birth 11 March 1921. The date 11 March was when the bombings took place and the 21 could refer to a chapter in the Koran in which non-Muslims are cursed.

The Moroccan was arrested after the Madrid attacks and extradited to Spain, while his brother, Mimoun, 34, was arrested in January this year on the Syrian-Iraqi border and extradited to Morocco for alleged involvement in the Casablanca bombings on 16 May 2003.

Both men lived together in Molenbeek prior to their arrests. Along with 17 others, they are accused in Belgium of membership of a terrorist group and passport fraud. Brussels Court will decide on 19 August if they should stand trial.

The 19 suspects were arrested in Maaseik and Brussels in two police operations; one before and one after the Madrid attacks.

Various suspects are allegedly linked to attacks in Madrid, Casablanca and Saudi Arabia and are suspected members of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM).

Meanwhile, an alleged member of the GICM arrested in France last week has said all of the European GICM leaders met in the Limburg town of Maaseik in November 2003.

GICM is believed to have planned the Madrid bombings and it is considered likely the plans for the attack would have been discussed at the Belgium meeting.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news