On March 11, 2004, a series of coordinated bombings ripped through Madrid’s commuter train system, killing 191 people. Although the attacks have been described as the product of an independent cell of self-radicalized individuals only inspired by al-Qa`ida, the extensive criminal proceedings on the Madrid bombings refute this hypothesis.[1] The network responsible for the Madrid attacks evolved from the remnants of an al-Qa`ida cell formed in Spain a decade earlier. It was initiated following instructions from an operative of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and included members of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM), as well as two former members of the Algerian Armed Islamic Group and Egyptian Islamic Jihad.[2] Although the network also included common criminals who radicalized into jihadists, this cell component was only a late addition.

Eight years after the Madrid terrorist attacks, new intelligence collected since the main judicial sentence in 2007 suggests that al-Qa`ida’s senior leadership not only approved the operation, but likely helped facilitate and supervise it. The key connection between al-Qa`ida’s central leadership and the Madrid bombing network was Amer Azizi, a Moroccan who lived in Madrid for a decade until November 2001. Azizi was a prominent member of the “Abu Dahdah cell,” an al-Qai`da cell established in Spain during the mid-1990s.[3] By the time of the Madrid attacks, however, Azizi had become the adjunct to al-Qa`ida’s head of external operations, the Egyptian Hamza Rabia.[4]

This article argues that Azizi initiated plans to conduct a major act of jihadist terrorism in Spain during the second half of 2001. At the time, he was already a committed al-Qa`ida activist, but not yet a ranking member in the organization. By 2002-2003, however, Azizi was serving as the key intermediary between al-Qa`ida’s central leadership and the primary members of the Madrid bombing network, including its local ringleader, Serhane ben Abdelmajid Fakhet (known as “The Tunisian”)—with whom Azizi had ties dating back to the late 1990s.[5] By all accounts, Azizi traveled from Pakistan to Spain at the end of 2003, likely to convey the approval of al-Qa`ida’s senior leadership for the Madrid attack, as well as to finalize the bombing preparations. This detail and other crucial pieces of information were acquired by at least three Western intelligence services between 2008 and 2010 and shared with this author.[6]

This article first recounts how Azizi became a key member of the Abu Dahdah cell, where he forged connections with the men who would later execute the Madrid attacks. It then provides a chronological narrative of how the decision to attack Spain was made, as well as Azizi’s role in the formation of the bombing network.

From the Abu Dahdah Cell to Al-Qa`ida Central
Amer Azizi was born in the Moroccan town of Hedami in 1968 and migrated to Spain in the early 1990s.[7] Once settled in Madrid, he married a native Spaniard, Raquel Burgos, who converted to Islam. Azizi began to attend Tablighi Jama`at gatherings in the capital, and by 1995 he had been radicalized and recruited into al-Qa`ida’s Abu Dahdah cell. Around this time, Abu Dahdah dispatched Azizi to a jihadist military facility in Zenica, Bosnia. By 2000, Azizi had also received military training in the Afghanistan camps, which were managed by al-Qa`ida and its North African affiliates.[8] Azizi’s training experience made him a respected member of the Abu Dahdah cell, within which he became a leading recruiter.[9]

The Abu Dahdah cell had important jihadist connections in several countries worldwide, from the Middle East to Southeast Asia. In Western Europe, for example, Abu Dahdah was close to Tarek Maaroufi, leader of the Tunisian Combatant Group, who was living in Belgium. Abu Dahdah also traveled to London regularly to bring money to the jihadist ideologue Abu Qatada. In the aftermath of 9/11, international security and intelligence investigations revealed that Abu Dahdah had a direct link to the Hamburg cell led by Muhammad `Atta and whose members were responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001.[10] Moreover, Abu Dahdah had previous knowledge of `Atta’s plans to strike on U.S. soil and was informed about ongoing preparations.[11]

Evidence on the connection between the Hamburg and Abu Dahdah cells led Spanish security services to dismantle it. Operation Dátil was launched in November 2001, and most of the Abu Dahdah cell’s core members were detained. Several other members were not arrested, however, due to a lack of incriminatory evidence according to the legal standards in effect at the time. These men included Serhane ben Abdelmajid Fakhet, Said Berraj and Jamal Zougam—two years and three month later, they would become the fundamental local operatives behind the 2004 Madrid attacks. Amer Azizi, closely connected to all three of the men, was in Iran when Operation Dátil was launched, coordinating the route to Afghanistan for jihadists recruited in Spain. He evaded arrest and made his way to Pakistan by November-December 2001.[12] Once in Pakistan, Azizi moved up the ranks in al-Qa`ida’s central leadership and would become a key facilitator for the Madrid attacks.

Intermediary Between Al-Qa`ida and Western Europe
Once joining al-Qa`ida central, Azizi operated alongside Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, a senior al-Qa`ida member who directed incursions into Afghanistan.[13] Azizi was also linked to Mustafa Abu’l-Yazid (also known as Said al-Masri), a historical leader of al-Qa`ida and the former head of its financial committee, as well as to al-Qa`ida operative Khalid Habib. Azizi’s trajectory in al-Qa`ida since 2002 suggests he was an important and highly valued senior member, with the experience and knowledge to direct terrorist operations in the West in general and Western Europe in particular. A 2005 European Union intelligence report on al-Qa`ida’s leadership, for example, mentioned an unidentified al-Qa`ida operative of Moroccan origin, based in the Afghanistan-Pakistan area and considered one of the main al-Qa`ida chiefs in that zone who “formerly acted as intermediary between Abu Faraj al-Libi and Western Europe, where he resided.”[14]

Many of the details on Azizi’s activities also appeared in a biography published by Tauhid Press as part of a series on “Martyrs of Maghreb al-Aqsa in the Land of the Hindu Kush,” and disseminated on jihadist websites in 2009.[15] The biography referred to Azizi by name and described his “military activity” and role as “administration responsible” in al-Qa`ida before “the amir” trusted him for other important duties, first in “the information team” and subsequently “to lead one of the military sections.” Azizi, as the document asserted, finally “assumed the function of adjunct to the commander for external action [Hamza Rabia]” and was involved, among other tasks, in instructing “the lions that came from far away with the end of preparing them to transform the tranquility of the crusaders into a hell.”[16]

The biography noted that Azizi’s intention to target Spain predated the 9/11 attacks on the United States. According to the story presented in the biography, in 2001 he returned to Spain from Afghanistan with the idea of executing an act of jihad on these “usurped lands.”[17] Yet his attack plans were frustrated because, as the document explained, “most members of the jihadist cell” were arrested due to the “blessed attacks of New York and Washington.” This statement obviously referred to the dismantling of the Abu Dahdah cell two months after 9/11.

The Decision to Attack Spain
The initial groundwork for the Madrid attacks began with a meeting in Karachi in December 2001 between Amer Azizi and Abdelatif Mourafik.[18] Mourafik was an operative in the LIFG.[19] The two individuals met initially in Afghanistan at some point in or before 2000, when Azizi received military training at the Shahid Abu Yahya Camp, a facility operated by the LIFG.[20] In addition to LIFG members, recruits for the GICM were indoctrinated and trained there as well; later investigations into the Madrid bombing cell revealed that its members included those affiliated with the GICM.[21]

Toward the end of the 1990s, both the LIFG and GICM agreed to coordinate activities.[22] After 9/11, this agreement became relevant for the Madrid attacks, as senior members of the LIFG and GICM were involved in not only the strategic-operational decision to attack targets in Spain, but also in the actual configuration of the network behind the Madrid blasts.[23]

The meeting in Karachi in December 2001 led to a more formal gathering in Istanbul in February 2002. In Istanbul, delegates from the LIFG and GICM, as well as from the Tunisian Combatant Group, agreed that jihad should not be limited to conflict zones, but should also be conducted in countries where their members originated or lived.[24] This argument was subsequently disseminated in Madrid by August 2002 in the early meetings of what would become the basis for the Madrid bombing network.[25] In 2002, precisely at the instigation of Mourafik himself, Mustafa Maymouni, a Moroccan, initiated the formation of the local operational cell that would eventually execute the Madrid attacks.[26] Maymouni had been a friend of Azizi since at least 1999 when the two attended the same Tablighi congregations in Madrid.[27] Azizi recruited him into the Abu Dahdah cell around 2001, and Maymouni became his closest collaborator.[28] Indeed, Mourafik likely found Maymouni through Azizi.

Azizi and the Madrid Bombing Network
In 2002, Maymouni rented the Morata de Tajuña rural house in Chinchón that served as the base of operations for the bombers.[29] He rented the house from the wife of Mohamed Needl Acaid, who was at the time incarcerated in Spain for belonging to the Abu Dahdah cell. In May 2003, however, Maymouni was imprisoned in Morocco, where he had traveled temporarily, after being implicated in the Casablanca attacks, the same charge that moved Turkish police to almost simultaneously arrest Mourafik and extradite him to Moroccan authorities. Due to Maymouni’s arrest, another Moroccan, Driss Chebli, and Serhane ben Abdelmajid Fakhet (“The Tunisian”) came to jointly lead the Madrid local cell. Yet a few months later, Chebli was arrested in Spain and accused of belonging to the Abu Dahdah cell.[30] Fakhet, who had close ties to Azizi, became the sole chief local organizer. The continuity between the remains of the Abu Dahdah cell and the Madrid bombing network is so evident that Fakhet himself might have exchanged with Abu Dahdah on the plot, since he even visited the latter in prison only five days before the March 11 attacks.[31]

Fakhet was radicalized and recruited by Azizi into the Abu Dahdah cell in the late 1990s.[32] They met each other frequently until the summer of 2001 and communicated by e-mail through 2002 and in 2003, although left no electronic traffic since they saved the e-mails in the draft box of an e-mail account to which they both had login access.[33] It was likely Azizi who—to complete the local operational cell—suggested engaging Jamal Zougam, a Moroccan who the Spanish National Police had already investigated in the Abu Dahdah cell case and also in connection with the Casablanca attacks in 2003.[34] Azizi had been in contact with Zougam before escaping to Pakistan in 2001.[35]

Azizi’s connections to the bombing network did not end there. Said Berraj, who remains a fugitive for his role in the Madrid attacks, had close ties to Azizi as well. On October 10, 2000, both Azizi and Berraj were temporarily arrested in Turkey on their way to Afghanistan.[36] Azizi was then found in possession of five false Pakistani visas.

In the end, the Madrid bombing network included four separate, though partially overlapping clusters of individuals who all coalesced together between September 2002 and November 2003.[37] Fakhet and Zougam became nodes for their respective clusters, both of which evolved from the remnants of the Abu Dahdah cell. A third cluster was related to the GICM, and its node was Youssef Belhadj, a Moroccan based in Brussels who traveled back and forth to Madrid since 2002, leaving the city for the last time eight days before the train bombings; he knew the date chosen for the attacks since at least October 19, 2003.[38] The fourth cluster and the last one to be chronologically incorporated brought to the Madrid bombing network half a dozen former ordinary criminals. These men joined the network because they followed their leader, Moroccan Jamal Ahmidan (also known as “The Chinese”), who in 1996 already had jihadist views—his radical leanings intensified during a period of imprisonment in Morocco between 2000 and 2003.[39] This last cluster of individuals was introduced for operational and financial purposes.[40]

The al-Qa`ida operative who had ties to most key members in the network was Amer Azizi.

Both the decision to attack Spain and the mobilization of a terrorist network to accomplish this objective were top down processes. The groundwork started on or before December 2001 in Pakistan and extended until February 2002, involving al-Qa`ida’s North African associate organizations whose delegates gathered in Turkey that month. The track record of Amer Azizi inside al-Qa`ida central since that same year suggests he favored the subsequent approval and facilitation of the plot by al-Qa`ida’s senior leadership. By October 2002, Azizi had likely instructed Mourafik to place Maymouni—who was one of Azizi’s closest collaborators—in charge of the bombing network. The process included interaction between key local organizers and Azizi before and after he was appointed adjunct to al-Qa`ida’s head of external operations, Hamza Rabia.

Far from being the product of an independent cell, the Madrid attacks were a complex manifestation of al-Qa`ida’s capabilities in Western Europe after 9/11. The coordinated explosions on the commuter trains on March 11, 2004 evidenced the existence of jihadist networks or cells prone to direction and support, even supervision, from al-Qa`ida’s external operations command through intermediaries with first hand knowledge of the concrete operational scenario and ties to local operatives. Networks and cells that eventually incorporated individuals ascribed to al-Qa`ida’s affiliated entities had a significant presence in Western Europe. They were able to perpetrate sophisticated, coordinated and highly lethal attacks in the region explicitly following al-Qa`ida’s general strategy.[41]

Usama bin Ladin first mentioned the Madrid train bombings a month after the attacks in an audio recording broadcast by al-Jazira and al-Arabiya on April 15, 2004.[42] On the recording, Bin Ladin said, “There is a lesson regarding what happens in occupied Palestine and what happened on September 11 and March 11. These are your goods returned to you.” On November 16, 2005, Ayman al-Zawahiri alluded to the March 2004 attacks in a video praising the suicide bombings of July 7, 2005 in London as “the blessed raid which, like its illustrious predecessors in New York, Washington and Madrid, took the battle to the enemy’s own soil.”

While in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay after his arrest in May 2005, Abu Faraj al-Libi, the overall manager of al-Qa`ida’s operations at the time of the Madrid attacks, declared that Hamza Rabia, then the chief external operations planner, “wanted strongly to attack passenger trains in the US or UK following the March 2004 bombing of commuter trains in Madrid.”[43] On July 7, 2005, one year and four months later, suicide bombers struck the London Underground system. The role of the alleged al-Qa`ida mastermind behind this plot, Abu Ubaydah al-Masri, could be compared to that of Azizi in the Madrid attacks.

In December 2005, when a U.S. drone killed Amer Azizi and Hamza Rabia in a North Waziristan home,[44] they were both preparing operatives for a similar strike planned on the continental United States.[45]

Dr. Fernando Reinares is Professor and Chair in Political Science at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos (King Juan Carlos University), as well as Senior Analyst on International Terrorism and Co-Director of the Program on Global Security Challenges at Real Instituto Elcano (Elcano Royal Institute), both in Madrid. After the 2004 Madrid train bombings, he served a term as Senior Adviser on Antiterrorist Policy to Spain’s Minister of Interior, and was awarded with the Cross of Military Merit in 2010. Research for the book of which this article is a partial summary advanced much during 2011, while Dr. Reinares was a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.

[1] In fact, the judicial sentence on the trial case refers to the militants convicted for the attacks as “members of terrorist cells and groups of jihadist type” and belonging to a “terrorist group or groups of jihadist character.” The sentence never alluded to an “independent” cell or similar notion. See Audiencia Nacional, Sala de lo Penal, Sección Segunda, “Sentencia 65/2007,” pp. 172, 279.

[2] Egyptian Islamic Jihad merged with al-Qa`ida in June 2001. The Algerian Armed Islamic Group disappeared after its offshoot, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, broke away in 1998.

[3] The cell was founded in or before 1994 by Mustafa Setmarian Nasar (also known as Abu Mus`ab al-Suri) and Anwar Adnan Mohamed Saleh. The Syrian-born Abu Dahdah (whose real name is Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas) became the cell leader in 1995 once Saleh moved to Peshawar to help in al-Qa`ida’s reception of recruited Arabs and their transfer to Afghanistan, and al-Suri to London to assist Abu Qatada in editing the GIA’s magazine, al-Ansar.

[4] Following the arrest of Khalid Shaykh Muhammad in Rawalpindi in March 2003, Abu Faraj al-Libi took overall charge of al-Qa`ida’s operations and Hamza Rabia became commander for external operations, including operations in the United States and Western Europe. On Azizi’s position as adjunct to Rabia and the intelligence sources for this information, see Fernando Reinares, “11-M: la conexión Al Qaeda,” El País, December 17, 2009; Fernando Reinares, “The Madrid Bombings and Global Jihadism,” Survival 52:2 (2010), pp. 91-95. Also see the following article on a jihadist website identifying Amer Azizi’s position: www.alqimmah.net/showthread.php?t=9752, accessed June 11, 2010.

[5] Fakhet and six others blew themselves up in a flat in the city of Leganés in Madrid’s metropolitan area surrounded by Spain’s National Police on April 3, 2004. The Spanish police detected the hiding place by investigating a prepaid cell phone card used by a previously investigated member of the Abu Dahdah cell. See testimony in the Spanish parliament of the officer in charge in Cortes Generales, “Diario de Sesiones del Congreso de los Diputados, Comisiones de Investigación, Sobre el 11 de marzo de 2004,” Session of October 25, 2004, p. 4.

[6] Personal interviews, senior intelligence officers of two Western governments, one of them European, in December 2011 and, for further documented confirmation, in February 2012.

[7] Amer Azizi was also known as Othman al-Andalusi, Jaffar al-Maghrebi and, occasionally, Othman al-Faruq and Ilyas.

[8] Audiencia Nacional, Juzgado Central de Instrucción no. 5, “Sumario 35/2001,” vol. 57, pp. 18, 322-418, 369; Audiencia of September 19, 2003. Also, Audiencia Nacional, Juzgado Central de Instrucción no. 5, “Declaración judicial. Abdula Jayata Kattan @Abu Ibrahim,” February 4-5, 2004, p. 19.

[9] Late in 2001, British soldiers found in al-Qa`ida’s camps in Afghanistan the files of several Moroccans, residents of Spain, who arrived to these facilities in which they stated that it was Othman al-Andalusi [Amer Azizi] who sent them there for training. See “Sumario 35/2001,” pp. 35, 668-735, 679.

[10] `Atta himself traveled to Spain twice in 2001. During his second trip, between July 8-19, 2001, `Atta met with al-Qa`ida operative Ramzi bin al-Shibh—the so-called “20th hijacker”—and one or two unidentified individuals involved in the 9/11 attacks. The meeting took place in two municipalities in the Catalonian coastal province of Tarragona. Based on detailed analysis of the physical movement and phone exchanges in the area among Abu Dahdah cell members, Spanish security services are convinced that Abu Dahdah cell members, including Azizi, facilitated the meeting between al-Shibh and `Atta—although it cannot be established with certainty whether any of the Abu Dahdah cell members actually attended the gathering. For details, see Audiencia Nacional, Sala de lo Penal, Sección Tercera, “Sentencia 36/2005,” pp. 203-211; “Informe ampliatorio de las investigaciones realizadas en torno a las visitas a España de Mohamed Atta y Ramzi Binalshibh (sic),” Dirección General de la Policía, Comisaría General de Información, Unidad Central de Información Exterior, October 16, 2002; “Sumario 35/2001,” vol. 6, pp. 1,823-1,869, vol. 53, pp. 16, 614-616, 625, in particular the report “Informe sobre Mohamed Belfatmi, sus relaciones con Amer Azizi y la célula de Abu Dahdah,” Dirección General de la Policía, Comisaría General de Información, April 16, 2004. Also, “Informe sobre estado de las Diligencias Previas 367/01 y solicitud de comisión rogatoria internacional,” Dirección General de la Guardia Civil, Jefatura del Servicio de Información, September 16, 2002.

[11] Audiencia Nacional, Sala de lo Penal, Sección Tercera, “Sentencia 36/2005,” pp. 203-211.

[12] Spain’s National Police, however, found that he traveled back to Madrid, became aware of the circumstances and that authorities were searching for him, obtained money and arranged other unknown affairs before evading police detection and making his way to Pakistan. See Dirección General de la Policía, Comisaría General de Información, Unidad Central de Información Exterior, “Diligencias no. 18,” May 25, 2003.

[13] Personal interview, senior antiterrorism officer in the Spanish National Police, November 2009; personal interviews, senior intelligence officers from two Western governments, including one European country, held in December 2011 and, for further documented confirmation, in February 2012.

[14] Personal interview, intelligence liaison officer based in Brussels, then working in the framework of the European Union Common Foreign and Security Policy, October 2007.

[15] See, for instance, www.alqimmah.net/showthread.php?t=9752, accessed June 11, 2010.

[16] Ibid.

[17] This refers to the jihadist idea that non-Muslims currently inhabiting Spain are occupying al-Andalus, the historical denomination for the Moorish dominion that extended over most of the Iberian Peninsula between the eighth and fifteenth centuries.

[18] Personal interviews, senior intelligence officers from two Western governments, including one European country, held in December 2011 and, for further documented confirmation, in February 2012. At the meetings, Azizi and Mourafik also probably planned attacks in Morocco. Some of those involved in planning the Madrid attacks were later arrested for the suicide bombings in Morocco. Mourafik is also known as Malek el-Andalusi and Malek al-Maghrebi.

[19] “Informe general sobre conclusiones de la investigación de los atentados terroristas del 11 de marzo de 2004,” Dirección General de la Policía, Comisaría General de Información, Unidad Central de Información Exterior, July 3, 2006, pp. 67, 70-74; Audiencia Nacional, Juzgado Central de Instrucción no. 6, “Sumario 20/2004,” vol. 234, pp. 91, 130-191, 134.

[20] The camp was about 19 miles from Kabul.

[21] The GICM became affiliated with, and supported by, al-Qa`ida beginning in 2001. For details, see Peter L. Bergen, The Osama bin Laden I Know (New York: Free Press, 2006), p. 279.

[22] Evan F. Kohlmann, “Dossier: Libyan Islamic Fighting Group,” NEFA Foundation, 2007, pp. 13-15.

[23] Moreover, Fakhet, as ringleader of the local cell, had cell phone exchanges with Abu Abdullah al-Sadeq (the alias of Abdelhakim Belhadj), then amir of the LIFG, a few months prior to the Madrid attacks when Fakhet was in Madrid and al-Sadeq was in Hong Kong. The content of these phone calls is not known. On these exchanges there is a Spanish police report dated June 7, 2005, elaborated with the help of friendly services—presumably British—included in vol. 233 of “Sumario 20/2004,” pp. 90, 730-790, 734. Furthermore, on the evening of March 24, 2010, the day after al-Sadeq was released from jail in Libya, this author had the opportunity to meet him for a brief interview at the home of his siblings in Tripoli. The author was in the company of professor Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. In the course of the exchange, the former amir of the LIFG acknowledged having had what he termed “social relations” with Fakhet. Separately, on April 3, 2004, minutes before Fakhet and six other members of the Madrid bombing cell blew themselves up in Leganés, Fakhet made a cell phone call to a prominent LIFG member who answered the telephone in London. In a personal communication on March 22, 2010, also in Tripoli, and reiterated during a meeting in Madrid in November the same year, Noman Benotman, a former LIFG high ranking member, confirmed this to the author. According to Benotman, he was in London with the man who received the call at the time it was made.

[24] An intelligence note of December 17, 2004 about this meeting and the strategic decision adopted is incorporated in the criminal proceedings for the Madrid bombings. See “Sumario 20/2004,” vol. 97, pp. 31-32, 316, 848.

[25] Audiencia Nacional, Juzgado Central de Instrucción no. 6, Audiencia of July 5, 2006, pp. 64-65.

[26] At the same time, Mourafik instructed Maymouni to create another operational cell in Kenitra, Morocco, a task for which the latter was assisted by Jamal Zougam. The Kenitra cell was dismantled after the 2003 Casablanca attacks. The secret police intelligence report providing these details is included in “Sumario 20/2004,” vol. 191, pp. 74, 588-574, 615.

[27] “Informe general sobre conclusiones de la investigación de los atentados terroristas del 11 de marzo de 2004,” Dirección General de la Policía, Comisaría General de Información, Unidad Central de Información Exterior, p. 73. From at least 2000, Fakhet also frequented these congregations.

[28] When Azizi escaped, Maymouni was ordered by Mourafik to go to Morocco, where Azizi’s wife, Raquel Burgos, a Spanish convert, had moved shortly after the disappearance of her husband, and helped her to rejoin him, first in Turkey and then in Pakistan. See “Sumario 20/2004,” vol. 191, pp. 74, 600-674. During its autumn 2009 offensive in South Waziristan Agency, the Pakistani Army found and exhibited to the international press a passport belonging to Raquel Burgos, recovered from the debris of a house, next to the passport of Said Bahaji, a German citizen and associate of the lead 9/11 hijacker Muhammed `Atta. See Katherine Tiedemann, “Passports Linked to 9/11 Found in Northwest Pakistan Military Operations,” The AfPak Channel, October 30, 2009.

[29] “Sumario 20/2004,” vol. 21, pp. 5, 583.

[30] Details are included in the court indictment of Amer Azizi, where he was charged with terrorist offenses related to his membership in the Abu Dahdah cell as a “lieutenant” of the cell leader. See Audiencia Nacional, Juzgado Central de Instrucción no. 5, “Sumario 35/2001,” Audiencia of September 19, 2003, pp. 15, 17-18.

[31] Personal interview, senior Spanish police officer charged in the past with the criminal investigation of the Abu Dahdah cell, November 2008.

[32] “Sumario 20/2004,” vol. 163, pp. 61, 740.

[33] The testimony of a protected witness, a person who lived with Fakhet during 2002 and 2003, was fundamental in knowing about these exchanges, as it is documented in “Sumario 20/2004,” vol. 114, pp. 39, 154 and vol. 163, pp. 61, 923-961, 924. The actual content of these e-mails is not known.

[34] “Sumario 20/2004,” vol. 17, pp. 4, 411.

[35] For instance, following a formal request from the French authorities, namely from judge Jean-Louis Bruguiére, concerning Zougam—who was already suspected of jihadist terrorism activities by 2000—the Spanish National Police searched his home in Madrid and found, in addition to al-Qa`ida propaganda, written contact details for Azizi. See “Sumario 35/2001,” pp. 28, 477-428, 588; “Sumario 20/2004,” vol. 163, pp. 61, 679, 785.

[36] “Sumario 20/2004,” vol. 17, pp. 4, 414 and vol. 163, pp. 61, 684.

[37] Fernando Reinares, “The Madrid Bombings and Global Jihadism,” Survival 52:2 (2010).

[38] “Sumario 20/2004,” vol. 106, pp. 35, 601-635, 614; “Sumario 20/2004,” vol. 115, pp. 39, 970-939, 973; “Sumario 20/2004,” vol. 163, pp. 61, 608-661, 627; “Sumario 20/2004,” vol. 180, pp. 69, 863. Another individual who knew well in advance about the date chosen for the attacks is Rabei Osman es Sayed Ahmed (also known as Mohamed al-Masri). The Italian police discovered this fact when he was under security surveillance in Milan months after the train blasts. See report from DIGOS, Milano, Sezione Antiterrorismo, to “Procedimento penale 17596/04,” 2004, pp. 48, 55-57. Sayed Ahmed, a former EIJ member who lived in Madrid during 2002 and 2003, was linked to Fakhet and MICG clusters within the Madrid bombing network, and an acquaintance of Azizi. Also see ibid.

[39] “Sentencia 65/2007,” p. 201.

[40] See “Sumario 20/2004,” separate piece no. 11. Separately, at least three other members of the Madrid bombing network were also in contact with a cell of Pakistani men detained in Barcelona in September 2004 and afterwards convicted for sending funds to al-Qa`ida’s senior members in Pakistan. See Audiencia Nacional, Juzgado Central de Instrucción no. 2, “Auto” of April 11, 2005, p. 6; Audiencia Nacional, Sala de lo Penal, Sección Primera, “Sentencia 39/2007,” pp. 4-5.

[41] The local operational cell in Madrid followed directives concerning al-Qa`ida’s strategy. On the evening of March 11, 2004, a communiqué signed by the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades/al-Qa`ida, sent by e-mail to the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi Arabic-language newspaper, first claimed responsibility for the train bombings. This initial communiqué was most probably sent from Iran, although it could have technically originated in Yemen, Egypt or Libya. A second communiqué from the same origin was posted on the Global Islamic Media Center website on March 18, seven days after the train bombings. It announced that “our leadership has decided to halt all operations in the soil of al-Andalus” until “we are sure of the direction the new government will take,” referring to the Socialist Party victory over the Partido Popular in the Spanish general elections held on March 14, 2004, three days after the attacks. The communiqué was downloaded early the following morning on a computer used by key members of the local cell. This explains the message handwritten by “The Tunisian” and faxed to the press on the morning of April 3, the same day the Leganés safehouse was detected by the police in the evening, announcing “the annulment of our previous truce.” The truce, however, had been declared not by the local cell but by the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades/al-Qa`ida. The local cell simply accepted premises transmitted in advance from above and from abroad. See Reinares, “The Madrid Bombings and Global Jihadism.”

[42] On October 18, 2003, nearly five months before the Madrid train bombings, Bin Ladin released a message, broadcast by al-Jazira, threatening Spain.

[43] The Joint Task Force Guantanamo assessment on Abu Faraj al-Libi, dated September 10, 2008, is available at http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/10017-abu-faraj-al-libi, specifically p. 11.

[44] In November 2009, the author received this information from Western intelligence sources who were present in Pakistan at the time, and the author received written confirmation of the accuracy of this information from the Spanish police’s antiterrorism services in December 2009.

[45] Personal oral communications with senior intelligence officers of two Western states, one of them European, held in December 2011 and, for further documented confirmation, in February 2012.

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