The Center for Grassroots Oversight

This page can be viewed at

Context of 'October 10, 2000: Future Madrid Bombers Arrested in Turkey and Then Let Go; Some May Be Informants'

This is a scalable context timeline. It contains events related to the event October 10, 2000: Future Madrid Bombers Arrested in Turkey and Then Let Go; Some May Be Informants. You can narrow or broaden the context of this timeline by adjusting the zoom level. The lower the scale, the more relevant the items on average will be, while the higher the scale, the less relevant the items, on average, will be.

Mohammed Haydar Zammar.Mohammed Haydar Zammar. [Source: Knut Mueller]Turkish intelligence informs Germany’s domestic intelligence service that Mohammed Haydar Zammar is a radical militant who has been traveling to trouble spots around the world. Zammar has already made more than 40 journeys to places like Bosnia and Chechnya, and in 1996 he pledges his allegiance to al-Qaeda during a trip to Afghanistan (see 1991-1996). Turkey explains that Zammar is running a dubious travel agency in Hamburg, organizing flights for radical militants to Afghanistan. As a result, by early 1997, German intelligence will launch Operation Zartheit (Operation Tenderness), an investigation of Islamic militants in the Hamburg area. The Germans will use a full range of intelligence techniques, including wiretaps and informants. (Laabs 8/13/2003; Zeman et al. 11/2004) Operation Zartheit will run for at least three years and connect Zammar to many of the 9/11 plotters (see March 1997-Early 2000).

The French intelligence service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) is aware that radical Muslims appear to be traveling through Turkey on their way to training in a third country, presumably Afghanistan. DGSE informer Omar Nasiri will later comment: “[T]he DGSE had noticed a lot of men were disappearing from France, men who were under surveillance. They would attend the radical mosques every day and then, suddenly, they were gone. They went to Turkey and disappeared. A few months later they would be back at the mosques in France, but no one knew where they had been in the meantime. The DGSE thought they were at the training camps.” (Nasiri 2006, pp. 96) Turkish intelligence is also aware militants transit Turkey at this time and informs German intelligence (see 1996). Several of the 9/11 hijackers will also transit Turkey (see Late November-Early December 1999).

Senior al-Qaeda operatives establish a front company called Maram in Istanbul, Turkey, as a travel agency and import-export business. Investigators will later say they suspect that the company may be involved in efforts to obtain material for nuclear weapons and that it provides money and other assistance to radicals traveling between Europe and training camps in Afghanistan. Turkish intelligence and several foreign agencies are aware that militants transit Turkey at this time and some of them are under surveillance (see 1996, 1995-2000, and Mid-1996), but it is unclear whether Maram itself is monitored. The company, which receives a donation of US$ 1.25 million from Saudi businessman Yassin al-Qadi (see January-August 1998), is established by Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, one of al-Qaeda’s founding members (see August 11-20, 1988), who is said to have a history of moving money and shopping for weapons for the organization. A few months later he transfers shares in the company to two other men. One is Wael Hamza Julaidan, a Saudi businessman also said to be a founder of al-Qaeda; the US will officially designate Julaidan a financial supporter of al-Qaeda in 2002 (see September 6, 2002). The other transferee is Mohammed Bayazid, another founder of al-Qaeda and a US citizen who was arrested in the US in 1994 and then let go (see December 16, 1994). (Frantz 9/19/2002) For a time before November 1998, toll records for the Illinois office of the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) show telephone contact with a number in Turkey associated with Bayazid. Phone records indicate Bayazid moves to Turkey around April 1998. (USA v. Benevolence International Foundation and Enaam M. Arnaout 4/29/2002, pp. 16-17 pdf file) US intelligence has been interested in BIF’s ties to al-Qaeda since at least 1993 (see 1993 and 1998), but apparently misses its links to Maram while the company is still open. After Salim is arrested in Germany in 1998 (see September 16, 1998), the company clears out its offices. A neighbor says, “I just came one morning and saw the office was empty. Nobody knows what happen[ed].” (Frantz 9/19/2002)

Said Berraj.Said Berraj. [Source: Spanish Interior Ministry]Five suspected al-Qaeda operatives, Said Berraj, Amer el-Azizi, Mohamed Haddad, Lahcen Ikassrien, and Salahedin Benyaich, are arrested in Turkey. They are arrested two weeks after arriving in Turkey, apparently for failing to produce identification papers. They are later released, but the reason for releasing them is unknown. Turkey is a transit center and logistics base for al-Qaeda (see November 1996-September 1998 and Mid-1996) and el-Azizi is said to operate there, as well as in Iran and, possibly, Iraq. Berraj, Haddad, and el-Azizi will later be involved in an attack in Madrid, Spain, that kills nearly 200 people (see Before March 11, 2004 and 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004) and Benyaich will later be jailed in Morocco on terrorism charges following a bombing in Casablanca (see May 16, 2003). El-Azizi will also apparently be involved in setting up a meeting where details of the 9/11 plot are finalized (see Before July 8, 2001). (Rotella 4/14/2004; Fuchs 4/29/2004; Fuchs 4/30/2004; El Mundo (Madrid) 9/14/2004) Ikassrien will be arrested in Afghanistan in late 2001 and sent to the Guantanamo prison. He will be released back to Spain in 2005, charged for al-Qaeda links, an acquitted. (Associated Press 10/11/2006)
Possible Informants - Berraj is an informant for Spanish intelligence, regularly meeting with intelligence agents in 2003. It is unknown when he begins informing (see Shortly Before March 11, 2004). Haddad will not be arrested in Morocco after the 2004 train bombings despite strong evidence he was directly involved, leading to suspicions that he has been a government informant (see Shortly After March 18, 2004). El-Azizi also will be suspected of being a government informant because he is tipped off by Spanish intelligence about a police raid (see Shortly After November 21, 2001). He is also arrested in Turkey for passport forgery at one point, and then let go, although it is not clear when. (Johnson et al. 3/19/2004) Turkish intelligence is aware of extremists’ use of Turkey as a base (see 1996), but it is unclear whether this is related to the arrest of the three men. El-Azizi will repeatedly evade arrest in Spain after 9/11, apparently with the help of Spanish intelligence (see October 2001 and Shortly After November 21, 2001).

European operatives connected to al-Qaeda appear to be making preparations for a summit between lead hijacker Mohamed Atta and associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh in Spain to finalize the details of the 9/11 plot (see July 8-19, 2001). As these European operatives are known to Spanish authorities, the preparations are monitored. For example, a conversation between operatives Barakat Yarkas and Amer el-Azizi is overheard. However, Spanish authorities do not pass this information on to their German counterparts. (Johnson et al. 3/19/2004; Zeman et al. 11/2004) El-Azizi is also overheard talking to an Algerian, possibly Mohammed Belfatmi, based in Tarragona, where Atta stays for part of the time he is in Spain. (Rotella 4/29/2004) In one recorded conversation between Yarkas and another militant, Yarkas says that “Amer”—presumably a reference to Amer al-Azizi—is handling the arrangements for a meeting. (Rotella 4/14/2004) Police will later find el-Azizi’s address book; it contains the names of three contacts in the small town of Reus, where bin al-Shibh landed when he flew in from Germany. (Johnson and Crawford 4/7/2004) These European operatives hold a parallel meeting elsewhere in Spain (see July 6, 2001 and Shortly After) and some may also meet with Atta and bin al-Shibh (see July 8-19, 2001). El-Azizi’s arrest will be frustrated by Spanish intelligence after 9/11 (see October 2001 and Shortly After November 21, 2001) and he will go on to be involved in the 2004 Madrid bombings (see Before March 11, 2004 and 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004).

Amer el-Azizi slipped surveillance after 9/11.Amer el-Azizi slipped surveillance after 9/11. [Source: El Pais]Amer el-Azizi, an al-Qaeda operative active in Spain, escapes a round-up of suspected al-Qaeda operatives by fleeing the country two weeks before arrests start to be made, even though he is under surveillance. (Johnson et al. 3/19/2004; Johnson and Crawford 4/7/2004; Rotella 4/29/2004) El-Azizi, who had previously been arrested and released twice (see October 10, 2000), returns to Spain shortly after this and falls under police surveillance, but his arrest is frustrated by Spanish intelligence (see Shortly After November 21, 2001). He goes on to play a role in the Madrid train bombings (see Before March 11, 2004 and 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004).

When investigators search the home of Amer el-Azizi, a known al-Qaeda operative, they find an e-mail address that connects him to 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). El-Azizi helped arrange a meeting between lead hijacker Mohamed Atta and an associate, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, in the run-up to 9/11 (see July 8-19, 2001), although he was monitored by Spanish authorities at the time (see Before July 8, 2001) and arrested in Turkey in 2000 (see October 10, 2000). His arrest shortly after 9/11 will be frustrated by Spanish intelligence (see October 2001 and Shortly After November 21, 2001) and he will go on to be involved in the 2004 Madrid bombings (see Before March 11, 2004 and 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). An indictment released in 2004 will say, “A fundamental document… connects Amer el-Azizi directly with those responsible for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and concretely with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed via the e-mail address identified as” The e-mail address “was being used by an individual who facilitated trips for al-Qaeda members in direct connection with [KSM], organizer of the attacks.” A detainee will also later say that el-Azizi was in contact with the 9/11 plotters via e-mail. (Rotella 4/29/2004) After 9/11, however, when the Spanish want to indict el-Azizi, the US will be reluctant to turn the information over to them, and it will take six months to get it. Despite this, problems persist in information sharing between the US and Spain and this has an impact on prosecutions (see Mid-2002-June 1, 2006). (Johnson and Crawford 5/4/2004)

The Spanish intelligence agency CESID (later renamed CNI) frustrates the arrest of a senior member of al-Qaeda in Europe, Amer el-Azizi, by Spanish police. Most members of the cell of which el-Azizi was a member were arrested shortly before, but el-Azizi had avoided the round-up by fleeing abroad (see October 2001). After returning to Spain, he again falls under police surveillance, but, according to Spanish police union head Jose Manuel Sanchez Fornet, his arrest is prevented by “interference” from CESID. Fornet will later say that a police recording made at this time shows two CESID agents going to el-Azizi’s house. This alerts el-Azizi that he is under surveillance and he flees his home. (El Mundo (Madrid) 4/29/2004) El-Azizi then remains in Spain for some weeks, selling his car to an associate. When his apartment is searched, police find more than a dozen bags with radical Islamic books and videos. They also find videos of bin Laden on his computer and pamphlets from groups like Hamas. (Johnson et al. 3/19/2004; Johnson and Crawford 4/7/2004; Rotella 4/29/2004) El-Azizi was arrested and released twice before (see October 10, 2000). He helped plan a meeting for Mohamed Atta just before 9/11 (see Before July 8, 2001 and July 8-19, 2001), and will go on to be involved in the Madrid train bombings (see Before March 11, 2004 and 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004).

Said Berraj will be considered closely involved in the Madrid train bombings plot (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004), and frequently runs errands for Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet, one of about three masterminds of the bombings. He was briefly arrested in Turkey in 2000 while meeting with several of the other bombers (see October 10, 2000). In 2003, he regularly meets with Spanish intelligence agents. It is not clear if or when he stops meeting with them. And up until the bombings he also works for a security company owned by a former policeman. He flees Spain two days before the bombing. He has yet to be found. (Rubio 1/15/2007) A different informant named Abdelkader Farssaoui, a.k.a. Cartagena, will later testify under oath as a protected witness that he accidentally sees Fakhet and Berrai meeting with his handlers in 2003, suggesting that Fakhet is an informant as well (see Shortly After October 2003).

The Casa de Spain was one of the bombed buildings in Casablanca.The Casa de Spain was one of the bombed buildings in Casablanca. [Source: Associated Press]Twelve suicide bombers attack five targets in Casablanca, Morocco, including a Jewish cultural center. Forty-five people are killed, including most of the bombers. Moroccan authorities link the bombers to the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (MICG), which is allegedly linked to al-Qaeda. After the attacks, Moroccan officials sentence two surviving bombers to death and round up thousands of people suspected of having ties to terrorism. (Johnson 1/25/2005) The suspected mastermind, Saad al-Houssaini, has extensive al-Qaeda ties and lived in Afghanistan for four years before 9/11. He will be captured in 2007. (Whitlock 7/7/2007) The leader of the MICG is said to be Amer el-Azizi, who has links to the 9/11 attacks and the 2004 Madrid train bombings (see Before July 8, 2001 and Before March 11, 2004). (Wright 7/26/2004) Some of the other leaders of the bombings are also said to be linked to the 2004 Madrid bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). Also, Mohammed Fazazi, a radical imam who preached at the Hamburg mosque attended by some of the 9/11 hijackers, will be convicted for a role in the bombings (see 1993-Late 2001). (Irujo 2005, pp. 241-242)

Amer el-Azizi, a leading al-Qaeda operative, is thought to re-enter Spain to activate a cell that carries out train bombings in Madrid in 2004 (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004), as he is seen by witnesses in Madrid after the attacks. (Rotella 4/29/2004) A senior Spanish investigator will say in 2004, “There are people who have seen el-Azizi here in Spain after the attacks. It looks like he came back and may have directed the others. If he was here, his background would make it likely that he was the top guy. We have reliable witness accounts that he was here in significant places connected to the plot. The idea of el-Azizi as a leader has become more solid.” (Rotella 4/14/2004) His fingerprints are found in a safe house first used by the bombers in 2002. A Spanish investigator will comment, “El-Azizi was the brains, he was the link between the [bombers and the rest of al-Qaeda.” (Irujo 2005, pp. 218; Vidino 2006, pp. 320-321) El-Azizi was arrested in Turkey in 2000 with several of the 2004 Madrid bombers, but they were released for an unspecified reason (see October 10, 2000). Spanish intelligence also frustrated his arrest after 9/11 (see Shortly After November 21, 2001).

Multiple bombs destroyed this train in Madrid, Spain.Multiple bombs destroyed this train in Madrid, Spain. [Source: Rafa Roa/ Cover/ Corbis] (click image to enlarge)At about 7:40 a.m., four trains are bombed in Madrid, Spain, killing 191 people and injuring about 1,800 more. These are not suicide bombings, but were set by cell phone timers. Basque separatists are initially blamed, but evidence later points to people loosely associated with al-Qaeda. It will later be reported that 34 out of the 40 main people suspected or arrested for involvement in the bombings were under surveillance in Spain prior to the bombings (see Shortly Before March 11, 2004). Most of the bombers had never been to any training camps. In 2006, Spanish investigators will announce that the bombings were inspired by al-Qaeda, but not ordered or funded by al-Qaeda’s leadership. Specifically, the bombers are said to have been inspired by a speech allegedly given by Osama bin Laden in October 2003 (see October 19, 2003). (Wright 7/26/2004; Associated Press 3/9/2006) However, there will also be evidence against this that will not be refuted. For instance, the investigators will claim that all the key participants are either dead or in jail, but a number of them remain free overseas. For example, Amer el-Azizi is implicated in the Madrid bombings (see Before March 11, 2004), and he has links to well-known al-Qaeda figures such as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (see (November 2001)), Ramzi bin al-Shibh (see Before July 8, 2001), and Zacarias Moussaoui (see Before August 16, 2001). In late 2002 or early 2003, el-Azizi is said to have met with Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet, one of the key bombers, to discuss a bombing. He reportedly gave Fakhet permission to stage a bombing in the name of al-Qaeda, but it is unclear if he gave any funding or other assistance. (Giles 4/10/2004; Wright 7/26/2004) There are suggestions that el-Azizi was protected by Spanish intelligence (see Shortly After November 21, 2001), so the government may not be eager to highlight his involvement. Fakhet, considered one of the three masterminds of the bombings, may have been a government informant (see Shortly After October 2003). Many of the other plotters also appear to have been informants, and almost all the plotters were under surveillance before the bombings (see Shortly Before March 11, 2004). Former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will say later in the month: “If we catch [bin Laden] this summer, which I expect, it’s two years too late. Because during those two years when forces were diverted to Iraq… al-Qaeda has metamorphosized into a hydra-headed organization with cells that are operating autonomously like the cells that operated in Madrid recently.” (Moniz and Komarow 3/28/2004) It will be noted that the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US and the Madrid train bombings are separated by a total of 911 days. (Wolk 3/19/2004; O'Reilly 4/22/2005)

Mohamed Haddad.Mohamed Haddad. [Source: Public domain]Days after the Madrid train bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004), multiple witnesses identify a Moroccan named Mohamed Haddad as one of the bombers. For instance, two witnesses claim to have seen him carrying a backpack on the day of the bombing near one of the bomb sites while in the company of two of the other bombers. Further, Haddad has many links to the other arrested bombers. For instance, he was arrested with two of the other bombers in Turkey in 2000 and then let go (see October 10, 2000). Haddad is arrested in Morocco on March 18, but then is soon released. Strangely, the Moroccan government allows him to continue to live in the Moroccan town of Tetouan, but do not allow him to travel or speak to any journalists. Also, Spanish authorities are not allowed to question him. The Madrid newspaper El Mundo will report on this unusual arrangement in September 2004. In August 2005, El Mundo will report that the situation is essentially unchanged. They will comment, “It has not been explained how the Moroccan police, who had arrested thousands of people for militant ties after the 2003 Casablanca bombings (see May 16, 2003), sometimes on scant evidence, leave a suspect at large who could not even prove where he was on the day of the train bombings.” The newspaper will also note that the Spanish government has not indicted Haddad. The article will conclude by asking, “How can it be a man like Haddad has not yet been charged?” (El Mundo (Madrid) 9/14/2004; El Mundo (Madrid) 8/1/2005) El Mundo will conclude that this “would mean that Haddad was an informer of [Moroccan intelligence] in Spain or that he knows things that the Moroccans do not want the Spaniards to know.” (Lmrabet 1/19/2005)

Creative Commons License Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike