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Context of 'March 16, 2004: Investigators Slow to Find and Arrest Madrid Bombers Despite Obvious Clues'

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It will later be alleged that in August 2002, radical imam Abu Qatada calls Spanish militant Moutaz Almallah and asks him to live with him in London. Almallah does move to London one month later. For most of 2002, Qatada is supposedly hiding in London, but in fact British intelligence knows where he is (see Late September 2001-Summer 2002 and Summer-Early November 2002), and he has a history of being an British informant (see June 1996-February 1997). The account of Moutaz moving to London comes from the estranged wife of his brother Mouhannad Almallah. Shortly after the Madrid bombings, she will tell a Spanish judge about the call and much more. She will say both brothers had frequent contact with Abu Qatada before moving. Spanish authorities also are aware that the brothers are linked to Barakat Yarkas, who frequently traveled to London to meet with Abu Qatada for many years (see 1995-February 2001). Abu Qatada will be arrested in October 2002, not long after Moutaz moves there (see October 23, 2002), but Moutaz will continue to live in London while making occasional trips back to Spain. Moutaz will be arrested in Britain in 2005. He will be extradited to Spain for a role in the 2004 Madrid train bombings, but will not have been put on trial by July 2007. In 2007, Mouhannad will be sentenced to 12 years for his role in the bombings (see October 31, 2007). [El Mundo (Madrid), 7/28/2005]

Entity Tags: Mouhannad Almallah’s wife, Abu Qatada, Barakat Yarkas, Mouhannad Almallah, Moutaz Almallah

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The wife of Mouhannad Almallah gives a statement against her husband to police. She says that he systematically beats her. She also accurately describes in detail his Islamist militant ties:
bullet She says that militants regularly met at her apartment. She and her husband have just moved, and militant continue to meet at their new apartment on Virgen del Coro street in Madrid.
bullet She says that her husband lived with Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet for a month in December 2002. Mustapha Maymouni, Fakhet’s brother-in-law, visited as well. They moved when they felt they were suspected by police.
bullet She saw her husband open several boxes and noticed they contained books and videos about Osama bin Laden.
bullet Her husband and his brother, Moutaz Almallah, strongly suspect their phones are being monitored. Moutaz lives in London but frequently visits Spain (see August 2002).
bullet She describes four particularly important meetings held in her apartment beginning in November 2002. Moutaz and Mouhannad Almallah, Fakhet, and Mayoumi attended all the meetings. Basel Ghalyoun attended the fourth one. In these meetings, they always speak of attack and jihad. They talk about bin Laden, but refer to him as “Emir.”
bullet Sometimes her husband Mouhannad and Fakhet discuss Amer el-Azizi, who fled a police raid in November 2001 (see Shortly After November 21, 2001). She finds out they helped him escape Spain dressed as a woman. El-Azizi is believed to be linked to the 9/11 attacks (see Before July 8, 2001).
bullet Both Mouhannad and Fakhet remain in contact with el-Azizi by e-mail. Her husband’s brother Moutaz does as well.
bullet She occasionally sees her husband with Jamal Ahmidan, alias “El Chino.”
Police apparently take her warnings seriously because they begin monitoring her apartment in March 2003 (see January 17, 2003-Late March 2004). Most of these people—Fakhet, el-Azizi, Ghalyoun, and both Almallah brothers—are already under surveillance (see December 2001-June 2002). [El Mundo (Madrid), 7/28/2005] All of the people she mentions are believed to have important roles in the 2004 Madrid bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004), except for Maymouni, who will be arrested and jailed later in 2003 for having a pivotal role in the May 2003 Casablanca bombings (see May 16, 2003).

Entity Tags: Basel Ghalyoun, Amer el-Azizi, Jamal Ahmidan, Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet, Mouhannad Almallah, Moutaz Almallah, Osama bin Laden, Mouhannad Almallah’s wife, Mustapha Maymouni

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Beginning on January 17, 2003, Spanish police begin monitoring an apartment on Virgen de Coro street in Madrid owned by the brothers Moutaz and Mouhannad Almallah. Moutaz owns it but lives in London, so Mouhannad is the landlord and works there every day as well. Police were tipped off about the house earlier in the month by Mouhannad’s estranged wife. She revealed that a group of Islamist militants are regularly meeting there (see January 4, 2003). [El Mundo (Madrid), 8/10/2005] Both Almallah brothers ties to known al-Qaeda figures such as Barakat Yarkas and radical imam Abu Qatada, and Moutaz moved to London in August 2002 to live with Qatada (see August 2002). In 2007, an unnamed Spanish police officer testifying in the Madrid bombings trial will give details about the surveillance of the apartment. He will call it an important place for both meetings and recruitment. The police note that both brothers travel frequently to and from London and also regularly call London. These calls are usually followed by calls to the Middle East or North Africa. Police are aware that Moutaz has no job in London and is in the circle of people around Abu Qatada (although Abu Qatada himself was arrested in late 2002 see (see October 23, 2002)). Basel Ghalyoun and Fouad el Morabit live at the apartment and frequently meet there with Mouhannad Almallah and Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet. [El Mundo (Madrid), 3/21/2007] Ghalyoun will later admit that in early 2003, Fakhet began to “talk of carrying out an attack in Spain, making jihad…” He will say that others attending jihad meetings at the apartment in 2003 include Arish Rifaat and Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed. [El Mundo (Madrid), 10/15/2005] Mohammed Larbi ben Sellam is also frequently seen there. [El Mundo (Madrid), 9/28/2004] The surveillance intensifies in subsequent months, and soon the apartment is monitored with video as well (see Spring 2003 and After). Police will keep watching the apartment until arrests are made after the March 2004 Madrid train bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). Rifaat, Fakret, and others will allegedly blow themselves up shortly after the Madrid bombings (see 9:05 p.m., April 3, 2004). There are allegations Fakret was an informant (see Shortly After October 2003). Mouhannad Almallah, Ghalyoun, ben Sellam, and el Morabit will be convicted in 2007 and each sentenced to 12 years for roles in the bombings (see October 31, 2007). Ahmed will be convicted of different charges in Italy (see October 31, 2007). Curiously, when the apartment is raided shortly after the Madrid bombings, two documents belonging to police officer Ayman Maussili Kalaji will be found inside. Kalaji will admit to having a friendship with Moutaz Almallah dating back at least to 1995 (see May 16, 2005).

Entity Tags: Moutaz Almallah, Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed, Mouhannad Almallah, Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet, Mohammed Larbi ben Sellam, Mouhannad Almallah’s wife, Basel Ghalyoun, Abu Qatada, Fouad el Morabit, Barakat Yarkas, Arish Rifaat

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The wife of Mouhannad Almallah gave Spanish police stunning details about a group of Islamist militants planning attacks in January 2003 (see January 4, 2003), and she returns to the police to give them a new lead. She previously said that her husband, his brother Moutaz Almallah, Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet, and Mustapha Maymouni have been holding meetings planning attacks. Now she says that her husband told her that “one day” he would like to attack the Torres Kio towers of the Plaza de Castilla, an important Madrid landmark, with a car bomb. That attack does not occur, but all the men she mentions will be killed or arrested for roles in the 2004 Madrid bombings, except for Maymouni, who will be arrested for a role in bombings in Casablanca several months later (see May 16, 2003). Police apparently take her warnings seriously because they begin monitoring her apartment one month later (see January 17, 2003-Late March 2004). The wife’s brother, who is also Mouhannad’s business partner, will testify in 2007 that Mouhannad also told him about a desire to destroy the Torres Kio towers. [El Mundo (Madrid), 7/28/2005; El Mundo (Madrid), 3/13/2007]

Entity Tags: Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet, Moutaz Almallah, Mouhannad Almallah’s wife, Mustapha Maymouni, Mouhannad Almallah

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Angel Acebes.Angel Acebes. [Source: Luis Magan / El Pais]At 4:00 p.m. on March 13, 2004, the day before national elections in Spain, Interior Minister Angel Acebes announces on television that Jamal Zougam and two other Moroccans have been arrested for suspected roles in the Madrid train bombings two days before (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). A day earlier, evidence found at one of the bomb sites was linked to Zougam (see March 12, 2004), and he had long been monitored for his Islamist militant links (see 2000-Early March 2004). Nonetheless, Acebes continues to suggest that ETA, a Basque separatist group, was behind the bombing instead. The ruling party has staked its reputation on its assertion that ETA is to blame. [New Yorker, 7/26/2004] That evening, the national public television station even changes its regular television programming to show a movie about Basque terrorism. [Australian, 11/2/2007] But by now the opposition Socialist Party is publicly accusing the government of lying about the investigation in order to stay in power. [New Yorker, 7/26/2004] Zougam will later be sentenced to life in prison for his role in the Madrid bombings. [Daily Mail, 11/1/2007]

Entity Tags: Euzkadi Ta Azkatasuna, Angel Acebes, Jamal Zougam

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The estranged wife of Mouhannad Almallah goes to the judge in charge of the Madrid train bombings investigation and tells him that her husband had been planning attacks in Madrid. So far Jamal Zougam is the main suspect known to the public, as his arrest was announced three days before (see 4:00 p.m., March 13, 2004). She says that her husband knew Zougam and talked about doing business with him in Morocco. [El Mundo (Madrid), 3/13/2007] A police officer confirms to the judge that she had already discussed many of these connections with police in January and February 2003. At that time, she named her husband, his brother Moutaz Almallah, Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet, Basel Ghalyoun, Amer el-Azizi, Jamal Ahmidan, and others (see February 12, 2003 and January 4, 2003). These men will turn out to be most of the key players in the train bombings. All of them have been under surveillance for over a year at her apartment and elsewhere (see January 17, 2003-Late March 2004). She tells the judge additional details about the Almallah brothers’ links to Abu Qatada, an imam linked to al-Qaeda (see August 2002). [El Mundo (Madrid), 7/28/2005; El Mundo (Madrid), 7/28/2005] Seemingly, her account, plus all the data collected from monitoring these suspects prior to the bombing, should be enough evidence to arrest the suspects. Strangely, many of the suspects continue to live where they lived before the bombing, and continue to use the same phones as before. For instance, Ahmidan, whom she named, lives at the same residence as before until March 18 (see March 27-30, 2004). But there seems to be no urgent effort to arrest or monitor them, nor are their names or pictures published until March 30. In fact, the apartment where Mouhannad Almallah and his wife lived that was monitored for over a year is not raided until March 24 (see March 24-30, 2004). [El Mundo (Madrid), 8/5/2005]

Entity Tags: Moutaz Almallah, Mouhannad Almallah, Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet, Jamal Ahmidan, Amer el-Azizi, Jamal Zougam, Mouhannad Almallah’s wife, Basel Ghalyoun

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Spanish police raid the apartment of Mouhannad Almallah, an Islamist militant suspected of involvement in the March 11, 2004 Madrid train bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). The apartment is owned by his brother, Moutaz Almallah. Mouhannad is arrested, but Moutaz is not, since he has been living in Britain since 2002 (see August 2002). Police also raid another apartment on Virgen del Coro street in Madrid owned by Moutaz, where several other bombing suspects, Basel Ghalyoun and Fouad el Morabit, have lived.
Years of Surveillance - It is surprising police took so long to raid either apartment, since the Almallah brothers have been suspected militants for many years. [El Mundo (Madrid), 3/2/2005] Moutaz was considered the closest assistant to Barakas Yarkas, long-time head of an al-Qaeda cell in Madrid, and it appears he was monitored since 1995 because of his ties to Yarkas (see November 13, 2001). He also is known to have lived with the al-Qaeda-linked imam Abu Qatada in London in 2002 (see August 2002). Curiously, a police officer later suspected of a role in the Madrid bombings sold Moutaz an apartment in 1995 and then remained friends with him (see November 1995). [El Mundo (Madrid), 3/2/2005; BBC, 3/24/2005]
Wife's Tips Do Not Lead to Arrests - Mouhannad had been a suspect since 1998, when it was discovered that another member of Yarkas’s cell had filed a false document using Mouhannad’s name. Furthermore, in January 2003 Mouhannad’s estranged wife began informing against him and his militant associates (see February 12, 2003 and January 4, 2003). She exposed the brothers’ connections to many suspect militants, including Jamal Zougam, who was arrested just two days after the Madrid bombings (see 4:00 p.m., March 13, 2004). As a result of her tips, police had monitored the Virgen del Coro apartment for a year and were still monitoring it when the Madrid bombings took place (see January 17, 2003-Late March 2004). Mouhannad’s wife spoke to police five days after the bombings, reminding them of the link between Mouhannad and Zougam, so it is unclear why police waited 13 days to raid the Virgen del Coro apartment. [El Mundo (Madrid), 3/2/2005]
Let Go Despite Confessing Knowledge of Attack Plans - Mouhannad is finally arrested because two witnesses saw Ghalyoun, one of the two militants living in the Virgen del Coro apartment, near the Madrid trains when they were bombed. Mouhannad admits knowing Zougam, the main suspect. He says he had gone to Zougam’s shop to buy a charger for his phone. He says he knows Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet, another prime suspect in the Madrid bombings, and that in the summer of 2003 Fakhet had proposed several times to “rob banks and jewelers” to finance an attack in Spain. Fakhet even told him that he wanted to go into police stations and kill as many people as possible. The police are also aware that Mouhannad’s brother Moutaz and Fakhet were in telephone contact until at least a few days before the bombings. Yet incredibly, on March 30, Mouhannad is “provisionally released,” while still be accused of having a link to the bombings. He continues to live openly in Madrid and is not rearrested. [El Mundo (Madrid), 3/2/2005; El Mundo (Madrid), 8/5/2005]
Possible Involvement in Planned New York Attack - In the apartment where Mouhannad had been living, police find a sketch of the Grand Central Station in New York with precise annotations, leading to suspicions that some militants in Spain were planning a New York attack. However, it will take investigators several months to analyze and understand the sketch, as it is on a computer disc and accompanied by highly specialized technical data. [El Mundo (Madrid), 3/2/2005] He will be rearrested in Madrid on March 18, 2005, two weeks after it is widely reported that possible plans for a New York attack were found in his apartment. [El Mundo (Madrid), 8/5/2005] In 2006, a Spanish police report will conclude that the Almallah brothers had such important roles in the Madrid bombings that the bombings “possibly would not have occurred” without them. [Reuters, 3/8/2007] Mouhannad will eventually be sentenced to 12 years in prison (see March 18-19, 2005).

Entity Tags: Mouhannad Almallah’s wife, Mouhannad Almallah, Fouad el Morabit, Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet, Jamal Zougam, Moutaz Almallah, Basel Ghalyoun

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Police have concluded that Jamal Ahmidan, alias “El Chino,” is one of the main suspects in the March 11, 2004, Madrid train bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). On March 25, Ahmidan’s wife Rosa begins fully cooperating with police. Two days later, someone calls her from the the telephone number 629247179. That same day, someone calls a man named Othman El Gnaoui from the same number. El Gnaoui is a close associate of Ahmidan. The same phone number is used to call the mobile phone number of a man named Abdelkader Kounjaa four times three days later. He is the brother of Abdennabi Kounjaa, one of the bombers hiding out with many of the other bombers in an apartment in the town of Leganes by this date (see 9:05 p.m., April 3, 2004). The police will later tell the judge in the Madrid bombings trial that the person using this phone to make all these calls was Ahmidan. But in fact, in 2005 the judge will learn from the phone company that the phone number actually belongs to the national police. Ahmidan’s wife Rosa will later say she does not remember who called her, and phone records show the call to her lasted less than a minute. These calls have never been explained, but they suggest the police knew where some of the suspects were hiding, took no action against them, and then tried to cover this up. [El Mundo (Madrid), 7/23/2007] Curiously, one day after the bombings, police stopped tapping the phones of Ahmidan and El Gnaoui even though evidence linked Ahmidan to the main suspect in the bombings that same day (see March 12, 2004). El Gnaoui will be arrested on March 30 and sentenced to life in prison for a role in the bombings (see March 30-31, 2004). [MSNBC, 10/31/2007]

Entity Tags: Jamal Ahmidan, Abdelkader Kounjaa, Othman El Gnaoui, Rosa Ahmidan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

On March 18, 2005, Mouhannad Almallah is arrested in Madrid, Spain. The next day, his brother Moutaz Almallah is arrested in Slough, near London. Both are accused of involvement in the 2004 Madrid train bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). [Independent, 3/20/2005] The arrests come less than two weeks after it was widely reported that in 2004 police had found a sketch of the New York Grand Central Station terminal in an apartment where Mouhannad was living, leading to suspicions that he was involved in a planned attack on New York. [El Mundo (Madrid), 3/2/2005] It appears that Moutaz was under surveillance in Spain for al-Qaeda links since 1995, and Mouhannad since 1998 (see November 1995). Mouhannad was arrested shortly after the Madrid bombings, but then released (see March 16, 2004). Moutaz will be extradited to Spain in March 2007, but he has yet to be put on trial. [Reuters, 3/8/2007] In 2007, Mouhannad will be sentenced to 12 years in prison for a role in the Madrid bombings (see October 31, 2007).

Entity Tags: Moutaz Almallah, Mouhannad Almallah

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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