Madrid 1: Does Bin Laden wish to reclaim “Occupied Spain”?

March 13, 2004

CONTENTS

1. "Loss of Spain hurts still, centuries after Moors' last sigh" (Age (Australia)/Daily Telegraph (UK), March 13, 2004)
2. MEMRI: Statement purporting to be from al-Qaeda probably NOT genuine
3. Associated Press: "Spain was a center for al-Qaeda activity"
4. BBC and UPI: The case for blaming al-Qaeda
5. "Radical Dutch Muslims joining Jihad" (Expatica News, March 2, 2004)



[Note by Tom Gross]

This dispatch contains six articles speculating on who might have been responsible for Thursday's bomb attacks in Madrid, with summaries of some of them first for those who don't have time to read them in full.

A second dispatch concerning the media reaction to for the Madrid bombings by Reuters (which has referred to the bombings as a "guerilla attack"), The Guardian, Le Monde, The New York Times and the Arab media will follow tomorrow or Monday.

 

UK-based Islamists disagree on al-Qaeda's Madrid attack claim
Full text of a report today by Lebanese LBC Sat TV, Beirut, in Arabic 0600 gmt March 13, 2004

"Umar Bakri, leader of the Al-Muhajiroun Organization in London, announced that al-Qaeda's claim of responsibility for Madrid attacks is correct. He noted that Italy could be the next target.

On the other hand, Islamist Abu-Hamzah al-Misri [head of the London-based Supporters of Al-Shari'ah Organization] denied that al-Qaeda Organization had any connection with the attacks. In remarks following Friday prayers in London, he said that it is illogical for the organization to carry out an attack against Spanish civilians who opposed war on Iraq."

[Tom Gross adds: The Al-Muhajiroun Organization in London has close ties with groups that form part of al-Qaeda.]

 

SUMMARIES

1. "Loss of Spain hurts still, centuries after Moors' last sigh" (March 13, 2004). This article appears in both The Age (Australia) and The Daily Telegraph (UK).

"Thursday's bombings have raised an uncomfortable question for Spaniards. Is Osama bin Laden dreaming of exacting revenge for the loss of Al-Andalus, the ancient Moorish kingdom in Iberia? ... At the beginning of the 11th century, three-quarters of Spain's population was Muslim. But as soon as the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella reconquered the country for Christianity, the Muslims were ordered out. The humiliation has never been forgotten in the Arab world. But the sense of hurt may have grown since Spain, for decades a friend of the Arab world, backed the U.S.-led war on Iraq, despite vast domestic opposition.

"A dozen al-Qaeda-linked suspected terrorists have been arrested in Spain. Bin Laden gave warning that Spain would be singled out for attack in a taped message released last October through an Arab satellite TV channel. Bin Laden has also spoken of Al-Andalus, regarded with nostalgia by Islamists as the halcyon age of Muslim power and artistic achievement..."

[Tom Gross adds: Not stated in this article, perhaps because the Daily Telegraph in Spain is unaware, is that many radical Islamists regularly refer to Spain as occupied territory in their sermons and websites.]

 

2. "The alleged al-Qaeda statement of responsibility for the Madrid Bombings: translation and commentary" (By Yigal Carmon, MEMRI, March 12, 2004).

Yigal Carmon, the founder and president of MEMRI, argues that the alleged statement of responsibility by the Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades of al-Qaeda published in the pro-Saddam pro-bin Laden London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, is probably NOT from al-Qaeda.

Carmon writes: "The text of this statement includes linguistic usages and concepts that are incompatible with or alien to authentic al-Qaeda writings by Osama bin Laden, Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, and others. Carmon then gives various details."

[The full text of the statement and Carmon's analysis of it is further down this email.]

 

3. "Spain was a center for al-Qaeda Activity" (Associated Press, March 12, 2004).

"Just months ago, a taped threat thought to be from Osama bin Laden included Spain among countries that could be attacked "at the appropriate time and place." ... Bin Laden's warning was contained in an audiotape in October that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency determined was probably authentic. Spanish and other anti-terrorism officials say Spain was an important European center for al-Qaeda activity before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States.

"... Lead suicide pilot Mohamed Atta visited Spain twice in 2001, including a trip that July which [Spanish Judge Baltasar] Garzon says was called to discuss last-minute details with other senior plotters.

"Last September, Garzon indicted bin Laden and nine other terror suspects over the Sept. 11 attacks. Three were alleged to be members of a Spain-based terror cell. Garzon charged 25 other men with belonging to al-Qaeda. More than 40 al-Qaeda suspects have been arrested in Spain since the attacks... Tayssir Alouni, a reporter for pan-Arab television channel Al-Jazeera who was arrested last September on charges of belonging to al-Qaeda, also has been released on bail.

"...Some 500,000 of Spain's 42 million people are Muslims, according to government figures. Neighboring France, in contrast, has an estimated 5 million Muslims."

 

4. "The case for blaming al-Qaeda" (BBC website, March 13, 2004). (This is the full article.)

Evidence for al-Qaeda's responsibility includes:

* the choosing of multiple targets in a simultaneous co-ordinated attack is a hallmark of the Islamic militant group

* al-Qaeda has threatened revenge on Spain for its government's backing of the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq

* the scale of the devastation dwarfs anything that ETA has done in the past and is much more like an al-Qaeda operation

* Spanish police later found a stolen van containing an Islamic tape and seven detonators in the town of Alcala de Henares, where three of the four bombed trains originated

* a group called the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades has made a claim of responsibility on behalf of al-Qaeda, but it has been widely dismissed

George Joffe, of the Center for International Studies at Cambridge University, said on the BBC World Service's World Today programme that he had initially believed Eta was responsible, but was now having second thoughts. "It may yet be that this is part of a much wider conspiracy, and it's certainly true that Spain has in recent weeks arrested large numbers of North Africans, accusing them of being connected with al-Qaeda," he said. If it is ETA, it's likely that we will know fairly soon. If it's al-Qaeda, we may not get confirmation for months.

 

5. "United Press International enumerates some reasons to suspect al-Qaeda." (This is the full article.)

First, ETA generally warns Spanish authorities moments before launching their attacks in which civilians are likely to be harmed. This, obviously, was not the case on Thursday.

Second, ETA traditionally targets representatives of the government or the administration, such as policemen, the military, magistrates or even journalists who oppose them.

Third, ETA customarily selects "symbolic" targets, such as military barracks and administrative buildings. Although ETA's largest attack to date was in 1987 against a supermarket in Barcelona that killed 21 people, this was the exception rather than the norm.

Fourth, ETA always claims its attacks. Following any ETA bombing, ETA militants call in a claim to Spanish authorities. This failed to happen this time.

Fifth, ETA has never in the past carried out multiple attacks. According to some sources, at least 10 bombs were detonated almost simultaneously on Thursday.

On the other hand, these murderous attacks bear the traditional hallmark of al-Qaeda: multiple bombs detonating a few seconds apart and programmed to cause the largest possible number of human casualties.

 

6. "Report: radical Dutch Muslims joining Jihad" (Expatica News, March 2, 2004).

[This is a summary only. I attach this as an example of how Islamic terror organizations are increasingly recruiting Moslems and converts to Islam in various European countries.]

"Dutch Interior Minister Johan Remkes has voiced concern about radicalism among young Muslims in the Netherlands following a report about growing attempts to recruit them for a Jihad or holy war. Remkes made signalled his disquiet in the forward of a report compiled by the Dutch security service AIVD about recruitment processes employed by Islamic extremist groups in the Netherlands.

" ...The report identified three groups of young people who were prepared to get involved in Jihad. The first group, the AIVD said, consisted of a small number of native Dutch people who had converted to Islam. The second was made up of immigrants who had only recently moved to the Netherlands, while the third consisted of second or third-generation immigrants who were born in the Netherlands or who were raised here from an early age.

"The AIVD said that it had noted over the last 18 months that the age profile of people targeted for recruitment was getting younger. The report said however that some teens may only want to impress their friends...

"Attempts to recruit people for Jihad are not exclusively centred on mosques, the report said. Young people are also been approached in their homes, at functions in rented rooms and in prisons. The AIVD singled out the internet as another important contact point for Islamic extremists looking to sign up new recruits.

" ...The report describes the situation posed a "considerable threat" to Dutch society and to international order" and urges the government to tackle the problem without stigmatising immigrants. To do so would be corn for the mill of radical Islamic politics."

 



FULL ARTICLES

LOSS OF SPAIN HURTS STILL

Loss of Spain hurts still, centuries after Moors' last sigh
This article appears in both The Age (Australia) and The Daily Telegraph (UK)
March 13, 2004

Iberia looms large in Islamist ambitions and regrets, writes Isambard Wilkinson in Madrid.

Thursday's bombings have raised an uncomfortable question for Spaniards. Is Osama bin Laden dreaming of exacting revenge for the loss of Al-Andalus, the ancient Moorish kingdom in Iberia?

A group said to be close to bin Laden's al-Qaeda, the Brigade of Abu Hafs al-Masri, sent a message to a London-based Arabic newspaper saying: "This is part of settling old accounts with Spain, the crusader and America's ally in its war against Islam."

While the authenticity of the message is open to doubt, there is no question that it reflects the thinking of Islamists who hold that any land that has once been part of the Muslim community should forever remain under Muslim rule.

At the beginning of the 11th century, three-quarters of Spain's population was Muslim. But as soon as the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella reconquered the country for Christianity, the Muslims were ordered out.

The humiliation has never been forgotten in the Arab world. But the sense of hurt may have grown since Spain, for decades a friend of the Arab world, backed the US-led war on Iraq, despite vast domestic opposition.

A dozen al-Qaeda-linked suspected terrorists have been arrested in Spain.

Bin Laden gave warning that Spain would be singled out for attack in a taped message released last October through an Arab satellite TV channel.

Bin Laden has also spoken of Al-Andalus, regarded with nostalgia by Islamists as the halcyon age of Muslim power and artistic achievement.

Moorish armies from North Africa conquered the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th century and transformed the region into an integral part of the Muslim umma, or nation.

The year 1492, when Granada was ceded to Ferdinand and Isabella, is a talismanic date for some Islamist scholars, who consider it as the beginning of the decline of the Muslim world.

The tale of the "Moors' last sigh" is recounted to epitomise the loss of one of the Islamic world's great jewels.

When King Boabdil fled Granada, the last bastion of Moorish rule, he looked back and wept. His mother chided him: "Do not weep like a woman for what you could not defend like a man."

 

ALLEGED AL-QAEDA STATEMENT OF RESPONSIBILITY FOR MADRID BOMBINGS

The alleged al-Qaeda statement of responsibility for the Madrid bombings: translation and commentary
By Yigal Carmon
MEMRI
March 12, 2004

On March 12, 2004, the pro-Saddam pro-bin Laden London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi [1] published the alleged statement by the Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades of al-Qaeda, in which the brigades claimed to be responsible for the March 11, 2004 bombings in Madrid.

It should be noted that the Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades claimed responsibility for the August 2003 blackout in the U.S. (which was a large-scale technical failure), calling it "Operation Quick Lightning in the Land of the Tyrant of This Generation." [2]

The following is the translation of the statement, followed by commentary:

Text of the Statement

[The statement begins with the following three Kor'anic verses:]

"When you punish, punish them in the way they have punished you." (Koran 16:126)

"Kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from where they have driven you out; for internal strife [Fitna] is worse than killing." (Koran 2:191)

"Whoever attacks you, attack him in the same way that he attacked you, and trust Allah and know that Allah is with those who put their trust [in Him]." (Koran 2:194).

"The Trains of Death Operation

"In their last statement, of March 2, 2004 [on the bombings in Karbala and Baghdad] the Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades promised that they were preparing for their upcoming operations, and behold, they are fulfilling their promise.

"The Death Brigades penetrated into the European Crusader heartland, and struck a painful blow at one of the foundations of the Crusader coalition. This is part of a settling of old accounts with Crusader Spain, the ally of the U.S., in its war against Islam.

"Where is America, Aznar? Who will protect you? Who will protect Britain? Who will protect Japan, Italy, and other agents? By striking at the Italian forces in Nasiriyya [Iraq], we sent you and America's agents a warning, demanding that you quit the coalition against Islam, but you did not get the message.

"Now we say it clearly, hoping that you [Aznar] will understand it this time. We at the Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades are not sorry for the deaths of so-called civilians. Are they permitted to kill our children, our women, our elderly, and our youth in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, and Kashmir, and we are forbidden from killing them? Allah, may he be praised, said: ' Whoever attacks you, attack him in the same way that he attacked you' [Qur'an 2:194].

"Take your hands off us! Release our prisoners! Get out of our lands! Then we will leave you alone.

"The peoples of America's allies must pressure their government to withdraw immediately from their alliance with America [in its fight] against terror (Islam). And if you renounce [fighting us], we too will stop fighting you.

"We say to you that the Death-Smoke Squad will reach you soon, and then you will see [i.e. count] your dead by the thousands, Allah willing, and this is a warning.

"In another operation, the Al-Quds Army Brigades struck the Jewish Masonic temple in Istanbul, and this was the main Masonic temple, and three of the greatest Masons were killed. Had it not been for the technical failure, all the Masons would have been killed. But for reasons of divine wisdom, only three were killed. Allah be praised.

"We announce to the Bilal [1] bn Rabah Squad [3] that headquarters has approved [its] proposal. When the emissary arrives, the work will begin. We announce to the Abu Ali Al-Harithi Squad [4] that headquarters has decided that Yemen will be the third swamp [5] [in which] America the Tyrant of This Generation [will sink], in order to discipline the [Yemeni] government which is collaborating [with the U.S.] and that has abandoned Islam and now ranks second to [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf. Therefore, all the squads must be placed on alert, so that the operation will begin at 4515 S.B... [sic]. Do not forget to strike to the death; do not forget Abu Ali Al-Harithi; do not forget Sheikh Abd Al-Qader Abd Al-'Aziz (Al-Sayyed, Imam Al-Sharif), the great sage who was arrested three months after the September [11] events, and was extradited by Yemen to Egypt.

"We say to those who killed the clerics of the Muslim Sunnis in Iraq to stop, or else... and we promise the Muslims in the world that the strike of the Winds of Black Death (the anticipated strike on America) is now in its last phase [of preparation]. [It is] 90% [complete], Allah willing... Soon (when it suits the Jihad warriors), the believers [i.e. Muslims] will rejoice at Allah's victory.

"A warning to the nations: Keep away from the civilian and military institutions of Crusader America and its allies. Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar. Islam is coming, reinforcing [the Muslims] and humiliating [the infidels].

"The Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades (Al-Qa'ida), Thursday, the 20th of Muharram, 1425, which is March 11, 2004.

 

AL-QAEDA: "THE TRAINS OF DEATH OPERATION"

Commentary by Yigal Carmon

The text of this statement includes linguistic usages and concepts that are incompatible with or alien to authentic al-Qaeda writings by Osama bin Laden, Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, and others. The following are some examples, in order of appearance:

Following the Koran verses is the title "The Trains of Death Operation." This is uncommon in bin Laden's writing. Also, it is noteworthy that the phrase "Trains of Death" is not reiterated in the text as the name of the operation.

"Settling old accounts," both as a linguistic form and as a concept, is alien to authentic al-Qaeda writings.

The use of the concept of "agents" is taken from the vocabulary of nationalist ideology, while bin Laden and his followers relate to their enemies primarily as infidels.

The phrase "but you did not get the message" is not one used by bin Laden, who does not cast his operations in the light of "messages," rather, as acts in and of themselves to further the goals of al-Qaeda for the sake of Allah. Thus, it follows that:

The concept of conditionality, as in the statement "And if you renounce [fighting us], we too will stop fighting you" is not a bin Laden concept.

The term "The Tyrant of the Generation" was used in the previous statement of alleged responsibility by the Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades, for the August 2003 U.S. blackout which was caused by a large-scale technical failure.

In authentic al-Qaeda writings, the September 11 attacks are not referred to as "events" but as "raids" (the early Islamic term ghazwah).

The announcement of an operation to begin at "4515 S.B." or reference to an operation that is "90% completed" is alien to bin Laden's scholarly Islamist style.

Thus, this statement does not seem to be an authentic al-Qaeda document. [6]

FOOTNOTES

[1] Al-Quds Al-Arabi's editor, Abd Al-Bari 'Atwan, has in the past conducted an interview with Osama bin Laden, and praised him. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 319, December 21, 2001, ' Terror in America Retrospective: A bin Laden Special on al-Jazeera Two Months Before September 11,'
memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sd&ID=SP31901.

[2] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 553, August 19, 2003, 'al-Qaeda Claims Responsibility for Last Week's Blackout,' memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sd&ID=SP55303.

[3] One of the early companions of the Prophet Mohammed, an Ethiopian who remained loyal to the Prophet despite being tortured.

[4] Ali Al-Harithi was an Al-Qaeda operative eliminated in a targeted killing in Yemen.

[5] That is, after Afghanistan and Iraq.

[6] See MEMRI's Inquiry and Analysis 156, December 30, 2003, 'Assessing Islamist web site reports of imminent terror attacks in the U.S.' memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=ia&ID=IA15603.

 

SPAIN WAS A CENTER FOR AL-QAEDA ACTIVITY

Spain Was a Center for al-Qaeda Activity
By John Leicester
Associated Press
March 12, 2004

Just months ago, a taped threat thought to be from Osama bin Laden included Spain among countries that could be attacked "at the appropriate time and place."

After Thursday's train bombings in Madrid, the government quickly blamed the Basque separatist group ETA. But later the interior minister said Islamic terrorism was not ruled out.

Bin Laden's warning was contained in an audiotape in October that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency determined was probably authentic.

Spanish and other anti-terrorism officials say Spain was an important European center for al-Qaeda activity before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States.

Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon believes that Spain, along with Germany, was an important staging ground for the hijackings. Lead suicide pilot Mohamed Atta visited Spain twice in 2001, including a trip that July which Garzon says was called to discuss last-minute details with other senior plotters.

Last September, Garzon indicted bin Laden and nine other terror suspects over the Sept. 11 attacks. Three were alleged to be members of a Spain-based terror cell. Garzon charged 25 other men with belonging to Al-Qaeda.

More than 40 al-Qaeda suspects have been arrested in Spain since the attacks, although many have been released for lack of evidence. Tayssir Alouni, a reporter for pan-Arab television channel Al-Jazeera who was arrested last September on charges of belonging to al-Qaeda, also has been released on bail.

In Spain, there are fears that Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's staunch support of the U.S.-led war in Iraq has made the country a target for Islamic terrorists. Aznar has sent 1,300 troops to Iraq, even though most Spaniards opposed the war.

The first official mention of a possible Islamic angle to Thursday's attacks came when Interior Minister Angel Acebes said that police had found detonators and an Arabic-language audiotape with Koranic verses in a van in a town outside Madrid.

ETA, the separatist group that has claimed responsibility for more than 800 deaths in its decades-long campaign of assassinations and bombings for an independent Basque homeland, remains the "main line of investigation," Acebes said.

But with the van find "all kinds of lines investigation open up," he said. "Because of this, I have just given instructions to the security forces not to rule out any line."

Then, the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi said it had received a claim of responsibility for the Madrid bombings issued by The Brigade of Abu Hafs al-Masri in al-Qaida's name.

The claim received by e-mail said the brigade's "death squad" had penetrated "one of the pillars of the crusade alliance, Spain," and carried out what it called Operation Death Trains.

"This is part of settling old accounts with Spain, the crusader, and America's ally in its war against Islam," the claim said.

There was no way to verify that the claim did come from al-Qaeda, and Spain's government said ETA remained its No.1 suspect. The 10 bombs on four morning rush-hour trains killed more than 190 people, making it the worst terrorist attack in Spain's history.

Some 500,000 of Spain's 42 million people are Muslims, according to government figures. Neighboring France, in contrast, has an estimated 5 million Muslims.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.