Pubdate: Thu, 15 Apr 2004
Source: Charlotte Observer (NC)
Copyright: 2004 The Charlotte Observer
Author: Mar Roman, Associated Press
Bookmark: (Terrorism)


MADRID, Spain - Terrorists who carried out the Madrid train bombings were
members of an autonomous cell who may have had ties with fundamentalists
elsewhere but who got financing chiefly from drug profits, the interior
minister said Wednesday.

Officials are investigating the possibility that someone with ties to
radical Islam -- and perhaps terrorist training in Afghanistan or elsewhere
- -- was the overall leader of the March 11 attacks that killed 191 people,
but aren't sure such a person even exists, Interior Minister Angel Acebes said.

Acebes said the person "has been called the emir," but he would not give
any other details.

Spain has received a letter and a video from an al-Qaida-linked group
claiming responsibility for the Madrid attacks that warned of more violence
unless Spain withdraws its troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. But they
believe the group was largely confined to Spain and most of its members are
either in custody or dead.

The on-the-ground coordinator of the attacks is believed to be Serhane Ben
Abdelmajid Fakhet, a 35-year-old Tunisian real estate agent who blew
himself up with six other suspects on April 3 as police moved in to arrest
them, Acebes told a news conference.

The interior minister's remarks came as reports emerged that the cell might
have been planning to target Jewish targets in Madrid. On Wednesday,
members of Spain's Jewish community and Spanish officials said police
searching the apartment where the suspects killed themselves found a
document that mentioned a Jewish cemetery and cultural center called La
Masada, 20 miles northwest of Madrid.

Acebes said the cell that staged the March 11 attacks "was local and
autonomous, but its leaders have connections with other fundamentalist
groups." He said investigators are pursuing leads in Britain, Germany,
France, Belgium, Tunisia and Morocco.

The group's funding came chiefly from drug sales, he said. The bombers
apparently obtained the dynamite from petty criminals in a coal-mining
region of northern Spain who accepted drugs as payment, Acebes said.

The bombers used money from drug sales to rent an apartment, buy a car and
purchase cell phones used as detonators in the bombs, Acebes said.

Acebes repeated that the core of the cell has been neutralized through a
wave of arrests and the deaths of the suspects who committed suicide. But
he refused to rule out future attacks by cell members who remain at large.

"Further actions cannot be ruled out, given the fanaticism of these
individuals," Acebes said.

Eighteen people have been charged in the attacks -- six with mass murder
and the rest with belonging to or collaborating with a terrorist
organization. Fourteen of the 18 are Moroccan.

Six others arrested in the past week have yet to go before a judge. And a
fugitive Bosnian suspect named by the Interior Ministry, Sanel Sjekirica,
23, said from Sweden on Wednesday that he would turn himself in to the
Spanish authorities this weekend.

Sjekirica said he once shared an apartment with Fakhet but had nothing to
do with the attacks.

"I was surprised," Sjekirica said. "Of course it is not correct."
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager