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Garzon says police chiefs believed Islamic terrorists carried out massacre

15 July 2004

MADRID — Spain’s leading anti-terrorist judge told the inquiry into the Madrid massacre Thursday that hours after the attacks two police chiefs believed Islamic terrorists carried out the bombings.

Baltasar Garzón said on the afternoon of 11 March he spoke to Pedro Díaz Pintado, deputy director of police and Jesús de la Morena, ex-commisoner general of intelligence, who both said they had the impression Islamic terrorists were responsible.

Garzón was giving evidence to the inquiry into the events surrounding the Madrid terrorist attacks.

The inquiry is trying to establish if the then government of Jose Maria Aznar tried to influence public opinion by claiming the Basque separatist terrorist group ETA carried out the bombings in order to prevent a backlash from voters at a general election three days later on 14 March.

The Socialists led by Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero won a shock victory after it emerged groups linked to al-Qaeda were responsible for the attacks and it appeared the Aznar government had manipulated public opinion.

Recalling the events of 11 March, Garzon said he heard the news of the attacks in his car and drove to Atocha station, scene of the one of the bombings.

Garzon said his first thought was that international terrorists carried out the attack.

The judge explained that he clearly believed that al-Qaeda had carried out the attacks, because of a series of threats by Bin-Laden beforehand and the indiscriminate nature of the bombing.

But while he was at the station, a bomb squad officer told him at 12.20pm that Titadine could have been used – the type often used by ETA.

And after a conversation with Díaz Pintado at 1.20pm he changed his mind and started to think ETA could have been the author of the bombings.

However, later that afternoon, when he heard about the discovery of the lorry, which container detonators and a video tape featuring verses from the Koran, he reverted to his original opinion.

Also, Garzon said the statement made by Arnaldo Otegi, spokesman for Batasuna, the banned political wing of ETA, reinforced this opinion.

Otegi denied ETA were the bombers and Garzon said he thought “don’t  often  lie about their claims”.

After 8pm that day, Garzon spoke with Díaz Pintado and De la Morena who both told him they believed that Islamic terrorists were behind the attacks.

He asked Pintado: “Are we looking to the north(for ETA) or the south(al-Qaeda)?

“The south,” answered the police chief.

Garzón said that he had not wanted to give opinion on the claims made by the then Interior Minister Angel Acebes, who repeatedly claimed ETA were the authors of the attacks.

But the judge added by the afternoon of 11 March he did not think the former minister had any reason to believe the Basque terrorists were responsible.

Asked if there was a possible connection between ETA and the Islamic terrorists, Garzón answered: “It is metaphysically impossible. I have no reason to believe this cooperation.”

Despite praising the efforts of the police, he said there could have been more officers to tackle this investigation and “much more attention” paid to this phenomenon (Islamic terrorism).

He recognised the terrorists had exploited the element of surprise, but said the intelligence services had noticed “alarm signals” before the bombings.

The Iraq war had “evidently influenced” the chances of a terrorist attack being carried, said Garzon.

He believed the most serious threat to Spain came from north Africa and Morocco, where 100 different radical Islamic groups exist, with between five and ten members. All these could carry out suicide attacks.

Garzon said Spain still lacked a strategy to stop future threats while they had to cope with the same scarce resources that they had before 11 March.

He suggested more international cooperation between Mediterranean countries in the common fight against terrorism.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news