Expatica news

Police deny suspect warned of Madrid massacre

20 July 2004

MADRID – The head of a police intelligence unit told the inquiry into the Madrid bombings Tuesday officers contacted a suspect the day after the attacks but he did not talk about the terrorist atrocity.

Félix Hernando, head of the Central Operations Unit (UCO) of the Guardia Civil, said his officers made contact with Rafá Zouhier, who was a police informer.

Zouhier was subsequently arrested in connection with the terrorist attacks.

Hernando told the inquiry UCO agents also contacted Zouhier in the days leading up to the bombings, on 4, 9 and 10 March. 

Zouhier has claimed he warned of the attacks before they happened, but detectives did not act on his warnings.

The inquiry is trying to establish if the then conservative Popular Party (PP) government tried to manipulate public opinion after the attacks by claiming ETA carried out the bombings.

Critics claim the PP wanted to deflect criticism for its support for the US-led invasion of Iraq, which was thought to be one of the main reasons Spain was targeted by Islamic extremists allied to al-Qaeda.

During his evidence, Hernando claimed the sale of explosives to the terrorists allegedly by a group led by an ex-miner could not have been discovered by police.

He also said it was not possible to blame a “control failure” on the part of the police over the sale of these explosives.

He said Zouhier never told his officers of the sale of the explosives.

Hernando said conversations between Zouhier and his officers never touched on ETA, the sale of the dynamite or any terrorist attacks. 

Hernando said his unit knew about the attempts of Spaniard José Emilio Suárez Trashorras to sell explosives in January 2003 and mounted an undercover operation to identify who would buy the Goma 2 dynamite.

Suarez Trashorras has been charged in connection with the supplying the explosives which led to the murder of 191 people.

He said Zouhier had never told his officers anything about the sale of explosives by Suarez Trashorras.

It was only on 16 March, five days after the attacks, that Zouhier contacted police in a “frightened” state after recognising some of his contacts whose pictures had been printed in newspapers after their arrests.

A UCO officer called ‘Victor’ contacted Zouhier before 11 March in connection with an investigation into forged credit cards, said Hernando.

He said on 12 and 13 March, Zouhier was in contact with his officers but never mentioned the Madrid massacre.

Zouhier claimed police threatened him during visits to prison, telling him he should not say anything about the sale of explosives and his contacts with the police.

But Hernando said the two visits, on 9 and 14 April were “cordial” and there were no threats made.

Police had simply asked him about the sale of explosives.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news