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Four more suspects arrested for bombings

18  March 2004

MADRID -Four more suspects were arrested Thursday in connection with the bomb attacks in Madrid which left 201 people dead. 

Police said the suspects, who were all Moroccan, were arrested in the capital and in the north of Spain.

Three were detained in the Alcala de Henares area of Madrid. The fourth is being moved to Madrid Thursday from an undisclosed destination for questioning Thursday.

The move came as five other suspects arrested at the weekend  were appearing in court Thursday.

Three are Moroccan and the other two are Indian.

One of the suspects is Jamal Zougam, 30, a Moroccan, who was said by witnesses to have been seen near the scene of the bombings last Thursday immediately after the explosions.

Zougam is said to have had links to the Spanish Al-Qaeda cell linked to the 11 September atrocity in the United States and to the radical Islamic group which planned the suicide bomb attacks in Casablanca, Morocco in May last year in which 45 people died.

Meanwhile, authorities are refusing to comment on allegations that Spain cut the number of police units responsible for watching radical Islamists weeks before the bomb attacks in Madrid.

Police numbers were cut by half in some cities with officers sent back to ordinary police work, El Mundo newspaper claimed.

The newspaper claimed there were numerous signs of serious police and intelligence failures in the run-up to the attacks that killed 201 commuters.

It alleges Spanish police possessed phone taps linking a prime suspect in the bombings, the Moroccan Zougam, with Mohamed Fizazi, a jailed leader of the May bombings in Casablanca, Morocco.

Anti-terrorism efforts were seriously affected by rows between Spain and Morocco over the island of Perejil, fishing rights and immigration.

Paperwork that should have allowed police to trace the sale in Spain of the explosives used in the attacks has reportedly gone missing.

Spanish police knew that Zougam was closely connected to Salaheddine Benyaiche, another north African Islamist also imprisoned in Morocco for the Casablanca attacks.

It has also been revealed that of six suspects being hunted by authorities were were well-known for radical Islamist connections, before last week’s atrocity.

Spain’s Interior Ministry has refused to comment on the allegations.

The connection between Zougam and  Fizazi was revealed by a French lawyer, Jean-Charles Brisard, representing September 11 victims, who has access to Spanish police records.

In a phone call with a suspected leader of a Madrid-based al-Qaida cell that Spanish police monitored in August 2001, Zougam said he had met Fizazi.

Fizazi was one of 87 people sentenced in Morocco last August for their part in the Casablanca bombings last May which killed 45 people, including 12 suicide bombers.

He was ordered to serve 30 years in prison. He previously preached at a mosque in Hamburg frequented by some of the September 11 hijackers.

Zougam’s connections to militant Islamists were well known to both Spanish and French police and to intelligence services in Morocco. His Madrid apartment had been searched in 2001, turning up a videotape that included an interview with Osama bin Laden.

His half-brother Mohamed Chaoui, who has also been arrested, also features on Spanish police wiretaps of the suspected Madrid cell, according to Brisard.

So far police have arrested three Moroccans, including Zougam and Chaoui, and two Indians in their search for the bombers.

Police also arrested an Algerian man in the Basque city of San Sebastian who allegedly talked about a terrorist attack in Madrid two months before it happened.

Another Algerian named Said Arel is also reportedly wanted by police, along with five other Moroccans, all of whom are well known to Spanish police but have disappeared from Madrid in recent days.

Police sources said no international arrest warrants had been issued, despite reports that many of the bombers may have fled the country.

Another avenue for investigating the bombings – tracing the route followed by the Spanish-made Goma 2 explosives used between the factory door and the Madrid train bombs – has reportedly been hampered because the paper trail it should have left behind is incomplete.

The 100 to 150 kilos of explosives used in the bombs may have been exported to Saudi Arabia, Syria or Mauritania before being smuggled back into the country via Morocco across the Strait of Gibraltar, police sources said.

Subject: Spanish news