MADRID, Spain – A two-year probe into the Madrid train bombings concludes the Islamic terrorists who carried out the blasts were homegrown radicals acting on their own rather than at the behest of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network, two senior intelligence officials said.
Spain remains home to a web of radical Algerian, Moroccan and Syrian groups bent on carrying out attacks, according to a Spanish intelligence chief and a Western official intimately involved in counterterrorism measures in Spain.
The intelligence chief said there were no phone calls between the Madrid bombers and al-Qaida and no money transfers. The Western official said the plotters had links to other Islamic radicals in Western Europe, but the plan was hatched and organized in Spain. “This was not an al-Qaida operation,” he said. “It was homegrown.”
Both men spoke on condition of anonymity.
The attack on March 11, 2004, killed 191 people and wounded 1,500.
Authorities believe the ideological mastermind was Serhan Ben Abdelmajid Fakhet, a Tunisian who blew himself up along with six other suspects when police surrounded their apartment three weeks after the bombings, and that Jamal Ahmidan, a Moroccan who also died that day, was the “military planner.”
About 116 people have been arrested in the bombings, and 24 remain jailed.
Most of the plotters were Moroccan and Syrian immigrants, many with criminal records for drug trafficking and other crimes. They paid for explosives used in the attack with hashish.
While the plotters of the Madrid attack were likely motivated by bin Laden’s October 2003 call for attacks on European countries that supported the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, there is no evidence they were in contact with the al-Qaida leader’s inner circle, the intelligence official said.