Pubdate: Thu, 15 Apr 2004
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2004 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Dale Fuchs / New York Times
Bookmark: (Terrorism)


MADRID, Spain - The Islamist extremists responsible for the Madrid train 
bombings financed their plot with sales of hashish and "ecstasy" and drank 
holy water from Mecca in ritual "purification acts" before the attacks, the 
acting interior minister, Angel Acebes, said Wednesday.

In a final news conference before the newly elected Socialist government 
takes office, Acebes described the March 11 terror attacks as a local, 
independently organized operation led by people with "connections to other 
fundamentalist groups in Europe and outside Europe."

He said the group might have been influenced by a supreme leader "with more 
experience with radical Islam," and possibly training in Afghanistan. But 
he said much of the plot had been carried out with the help of petty criminals.

Using common drug traffickers as intermediaries, Acebes said, the bombers 
swapped the ecstasy and hashish for the 440 pounds of dynamite used in the 
blasts that killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,400 others in the 
Spanish capital. Money from the drug trafficking paid for an apartment 
hide-out, a car and the cell phones that were used to detonate the bombs, 
an Interior Ministry representative said.

The explosives, Acebes added, were taken from a coal mine in the Asturias 
region of northern Spain and transported in a Volkswagen to a rundown 
property outside Madrid, where they were assembled as bombs and placed in 

The leaders of the operation, evidently concerned about the effects of 
their plot on their souls, "swallowed holy water from Mecca," Acebes said. 
"They met periodically to carry out purification acts that would legitimize 
the committing of acts that could offend Islam."

Acebes said the man in charge of the group's finances was Jamal Ahmidan, a 
33-year-old Moroccan immigrant with an "extensive criminal record for drug 

Ahmidan was identified as one of seven suspects who blew themselves up 
April 3 in a Leganes apartment building, in suburban Madrid, rather than 
turn themselves in to police. At least three bodies have not yet been 

The ideological mastermind of the bombing, and leader of the purification 
ceremonies, was a 30-year-old Moroccan immigrant named Jamal Zougam, Acebes 
said. Zougam was one of 18 people sent to prison since the bombings, most 
of them Moroccan, he said. Zougam was mentioned but not charged in an 
indictment by an investigating judge, Baltasar Garzon, in connection with 
the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington.

Acebes said the operational chief and coordinator of the bombings was a 
37-year-old Tunisian named Serhane Ben Abdelmajid Fakhet, a former 
economics student at Madrid's Autonomous University who worked for a real 
estate office and was married to a 17-year-old Moroccan woman. Fakhet 
"recruited participants at some of the Madrid mosques in which he led some 
of the prayers," Acebes said. He was killed in the Leganes explosion, which 
also left one police officer dead.

All those responsible for the attacks are either behind bars or dead, 
Acebes said. The piece of the puzzle still missing, however, is whether a 
supreme leader, or emir, oversaw the operation from a distance, Acebes said.
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