Madrid Train Bombings, Al-Qaeda in Spain – Additions as of May 4, 2008

The vast majority of entries this week are about the 2004 Madrid train bombings and al-Qaeda in Spain. A suspect Spanish policeman sold a house to Moutaz Almallah, one of the bombers, in 1995, some of the bombers could have been arrested in a general sweep of al-Qaeda-linked militants in Spain after 9/11, but were not, although one of the masterminds was photographed with top al-Qaeda operative Barakat Yarkas. However, surveillance of the bombers continued and an informant spied on their secret meetings. The police learned one of the masterminds was preparing for "violent action", and another mastermind was surrounded by informants.

One informer monitored the bombers closely, and realized another of the alleged bombers also worked for the police. The wife of one of the bombers gave police stunning details about his activities in 2003 and they started monitoring a house used by he bombers based on a tip-off from her. She warned police the bombers were planning a suicide attack, and continued reporting on the group. Police received a big tip that could have prevented the bombings, monitored the apartment of one of the masterminds, and turned down the chance to videotape the bombers' meetings.

Most of the participants in the purchase of the explosives used in the bombings were informers, the police learned the bombers had made a martyrdom pledge, and there is even a suggestion that one of the attack's leaders was an informer. Spanish intelligence correctly named the leaders of the next attack in Spain in November 2003, and shortly before the attack one of the bombers was held at a police station, and another called the head of al-Qaeda in Spain, who was in jail. The bombers were seen behaving strangely at the site of the attacks shortly before the bombs went off.

After the bombings, the Spanish government announced an Islamist militant had been arrested, but continued to blame Basque separatists, partly due to a report about one of the bombs that was clearly incorrect. This was despite the fact that an al-Qaeda-linked group claimed the bombings, as did al-Qaeda itself, and the Basques denied it. Blaming the Basques cost the Spanish government an election defeat, but the Spanish Prime Minister at the time was still arguing the Basques did it months later.

One of the first actions taken by Spanish police, who were slow to arrest the perpetrators despite obvious clues, was to stop monitoring two likely suspects, and to arrest and release another. The bombers botched a second attack, but the police knew where a group of them was hiding, and a shootout ensued. Plans for further attacks were later found in the bombers' apartment, and the Spanish government announced the bombers were funded by drug money.

In 2005, brothers linked to the attacks were arrested in Britain and Spain and the press revealed a Spanish policeman had suspicious links to the bombers, but he was not arrested. In 2007, 21 people connected to the bombing were found guilty, but most Spaniards still had questions about the attacks.

One top al-Qaeda operative linked to the Madrid bombers was MI5 informer Abu Qatada, who appears to have lived with one of the bombers. Abu Qatada was also linked to an al-Qaeda cell in Milan, which went silent after 9/11, and was arrested and released in 2005.

Miscellaneous entries including statements by former US government official Morgan Reynolds and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez questioning 9/11, and a statement by former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying 9/11 and the Iraq War benefited Israel. Before the first CIA officers arrived in Afghanistan in late September 2001, they were told the "gloves are off", and an alleged al-Qaeda leader was captured in Pakistan in 2003 and disappeared into US custody, as did an al-Qaeda operative who warned of an attack on an oil tanker in Yemen in August 2002. Finally, Dan Rather gave the Bush administration the "benefit of any doubt" after 9/11.

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