Monday, June 06, 2005

MADRID MARCH 11 bombing investigation update:
They had the names. They knew when and where the men met and how they raised money. They even had the cell -phone numbers of the group's leaders. But with all that information, police were still unable to prevent the bombings that killed 191 people in Madrid on March 11, 2004.

Spaniards have known for months that, long before the bombings occurred, police and intelligence forces here were monitoring the individuals who would carry out the attacks. But last week, El Mundo newspaper published 12 notes written by Abdelkader el-Farssaoui, imam of a mosque outside Madrid and informer to the intelligence unit of the national police, that describe with chilling specificity the members and activities of the suspected cell. Since the report, the debate over whether the police could have prevented the bombings has intensified, with the opposition Popular Party voicing demands for more hearings on the attacks.

El Farssaoui, who went by the code name "Cartagena," began providing Spanish police with information in October 2002. He identified Serhane Abdelmajid, who would later kill himself and six associates by setting off explosives when police converged on their apartment, as the leader. In February 2003, he observed that Jamal Zougam, currently awaiting trial as a presumed author of the attacks, had joined the cell. And he recounted how Mohammed Larbi Ben Sellam, suspected of a role in the 2003 Casablanca bombings, had told him that "he didn't understand why most were so obsessed with going to ... Afghanistan to make jihad when the same kind of operation was possible in other countries, like Morocco and Spain."

The national police will not comment on the report. But Isidoro Zamorano, spokesman for the Spanish Confederation of Police, a union group, said he was confident that street-level officers had not withheld information. "My colleagues fulfilled their responsibilities," said Mr. Zamorano. "What happened when that information was passed up [the police hierarchy], I don't know. That's for a judge to decide."
The CSM interviews people who think that there was no intentional withholding of information; even Rafael Bardají, who is kinda Aznar's ideological right hand. Of course it may be the case, but when you read what I have posted in previous posts, you start thinking that unwillfulness is one, just one, of the possibilities. For background, read here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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