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Profile: Rafa Zouhier
Rafa Zouhier was a participant or observer in the following events:
Antonio Toro. [Source: EFE]Rafa Zouhier, an informant for Spain’s Civil Guard, tells his handler that two of his associates, Emilio Suarez Trashorras and Trashorras’s brother-in-law Antonio Toro, are illegally selling explosives from a mine in the Asturias region of Spain. Toro had recently been released from prison. Zouhier’s handler, known only by the alias “Victor,” includes the information in a report in March 2003 and sends it to higher-ups. He mentions that the people Zouhier referred to have 150 kilograms of explosives ready to sell. [El Mundo (Madrid), 4/9/2007] He reveals the two even asked him how to make bombs which could be set off by cell phone, and says they have been illegally selling explosives since 2001. In June 2003, police conduct a surprise inspection of the mine where Trashorras works, and they begin surveilling both of them, even though Trashorras, Toro, and Toro’s wife are all also government informants (see June 18, 2004 and September 2003-February 2004). [Expatica, 9/1/2004; Expatica, 11/22/2004] Later in the year, Trashorras, Toro, and others will sell large quantities of explosives to Jamal Ahmidan, alias “El Chino,” which will be used in the March 2004 Madrid train bombings (see September 2003-February 2004). Those bombs will be timed to explode using cell phones (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). For some reason, this sale is not detected, even though Toro and Trashorras are being monitored. Victor will reveal what Zouhier told him in 2007 court testimony. He did not mention it in several earlier testimonies, and will claim he “forgot.” [El Mundo (Madrid), 4/9/2007] Zouhier will eventually be convicted and sentenced to more than ten years in prison, on the grounds that he knew about the deal between Ahmidan and Trashorras and did not tell his handler about that as well. Zouhier claims that he did, but is unable to provide any proof. [El Mundo (Madrid), 4/9/2007; MSNBC, 10/31/2007]
Carmen Toro. [Source: Spanish Interior Ministry]In September 2003, Emilio Suarez Trashorras, Rafa Zouhier, Antonio Toro, his wife Carmen Toro, Rachid Aglif, Jamal Ahmidan (alias “El Chino”), and Mohammed Oulad Akcha meet at a McDonald’s restaurant in Madrid. The first five people are linked to a mine in the Asturias region of Spain and have no Islamist militant background. Ahmidan and Akcha are members of a group of Islamist militants and are meeting the others to buy explosives stolen from the mine. Ahmidan goes to Asturias at least five times from December 2003 to February 2004 to work out the explosives deal. He, Akcha, and others in their militant group will then use the explosives in the March 2004 Madrid train bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). Interestingly, at least four of the five—Trashorras, Zouhier, and both Toros—are government informants at the time. Supposedly, none of them tell their handlers about this explosives deal. [El Mundo (Madrid), 6/10/2004] However, Zouhier will later claim that he repeatedly told his handler about the deal. He will say: “I told them. I mentioned all the suspicions I had regarding the explosives. In 2003 I warned that ‘these people want to sell 150 kilos’. I told them 1,000 times.” [Agence France-Presse, 2/28/2007] His handler, known by the alias Victor, will initially dispute this, but in 2007 he will finally admit that Zouhier did tell him in March 2003 that Trashorras and Antonio Toro were dealing in stolen explosives and had 150 kilograms of explosives ready to sell. Zouhier even passed on that they asked him about using cell phones as detonating devices. Police then began monitoring Trashorras and Toro (see March 2003). Trashorras, Zouhier, and Aglif will eventually be sentenced to various prison terms, while the Toros will be acquitted. Trashorras will get life in prison (see October 31, 2007).
In 2006, the Madrid newspaper El Mundo will report that, according to their analysis, 34 out of the 40 people allegedly involved in the March 11, 2004 Madrid train bombings (see Shortly Before March 11, 2004) were under surveillance before the bombings. It reports 24 out of the 29 people arrested after the bombing, the seven who blew themselves up just after the bombing, and three of the four who fled Spain were under surveillance. Additionally, some of them are actually government informants before the bombing, though exactly how many remains murky. [El Mundo (Madrid), 4/24/2006]
Said Berraj is considered closely involved in the plot, and runs errands for Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet, one of about three masterminds of the bombing. He was briefly arrested in Turkey in 2000 while meeting with several of the other bombers (see October 10, 2000). Berraj flees Spain two days before the bombing. He has yet to be found. But in 2003, he regularly meets with Spanish intelligence agents (see 2003). And up until the bombings he also works for a security company owned by a former policeman. [El Mundo (Madrid), 1/15/2007]
Fakhet may also be an informant. A different informant named Abdelkader Farssaoui, a.k.a. Cartagena, who is not part of the plot but informed on many of the plotters for two years (see September 2002-October 2003), will later claim under oath as a protected witness that he saw Fakhet and Berraj meeting with the same handlers who handled him, and at the same meeting place he used. Fakhet will be killed about one month after the bombing (see Shortly After October 2003).
Mohamed Afalah also is an informant for Spanish intelligence. He is the driver, bodyguard, and confidante of Allekema Lamari, who the Spanish government calls the “emir” of the bombings. Afalah flees Spain on April 3 and also has not been found. [El Mundo (Madrid), 1/15/2007] Curiously, some reports will later claim that he blows himself up in a suicide bombing in Iraq in May 2005. [Guardian, 6/16/2005]
There are allegations that Amer el-Azizi, who appears to be the bombers’ main al-Qaeda link (see Before March 11, 2004), is an informant. He appears to have been tipped off to a police raid by Spanish intelligence in late 2001 (see Shortly After November 21, 2001).
Mohamed Haddad, who eyewitnesses say may have been bringing one of the bombs to the train, may be an informant. He reportedly lives openly in Morocco after the bombings under curious conditions (for instance, he is not allowed to speak to reporters), but is not wanted by the Spanish authorities despite considerable evidence against him (see Shortly After March 18, 2004).
Emilio Suarez Trashorras, a miner with access to explosives, buys the explosives for the bombings. He is an informant, but nonetheless will be sentenced to life in prison for his role in the bombings (see June 18, 2004).
Carmen Toro, wife of Trashorras. She allegedly helps sell the explosives used in the bombings, even though she is a police informant at the time (see September 2003-February 2004). She will be arrested but acquitted.
Antonio Toro, brother of Carmen Toro. He also allegedly helps sell the explosives despite being an informant (see March 2003 and September 2003-February 2004). He also will be arrested but acquitted.
Rafa Zouhier also is an informant. He works with Trashorras to get the explosives. He will be sentenced to a lengthy prison term for his role in the bombings (see June 18, 2004).
Additionally, other informants who will not be arrested for being part of the plot follow the plotters. These include Safwan Sabagh, who constantly trails plot leader Allekema Lamari, Abdelkader Farssaoui, Smail Latrech, and Rabia Gaya (see 2002-March 10, 2004).
In some cases different government departments have their own investigations and informants and are not always sharing information with other departments. Some suspects are being followed by two or more departments, such as the Spanish police, Civil Guard, and the Spanish intelligence agency, the CNI. The El Mundo article will conclude, “Undoubtedly, the lack of coordination was a real factor and critical in allowing the terrorists to carry out their plans. However, that does not explain everything.” [El Mundo (Madrid), 4/24/2006] In November 2003, Spanish intelligence actually warns in a report that Lamari and Fakhet are leading a new attack in Spain on a significant target, but no apparent action is taken in response (see November 6, 2003).
Entity Tags: Rabia Gaya, Rafa Zouhier, Said Berraj, Mohamed Haddad, Safwan Sabagh, Mohamed Afalah, Centro Nacional de Inteligencia, Smail Latrech, Abdelkader Farssaoui, Allekema Lamari, Amer el-Azizi, Antonio Toro, Carmen Toro, Emilio Suarez Trashorras, Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
On March 12, 2004, just one day after the Madrid train bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004), Spanish police ask for the monitoring of two likely suspects in the bombings to stop. Police ask that wiretaps on the phones of Jamal Ahmidan (alias “El Chino”) and Othman El Gnaoui be halted. The reason for this request is unknown. Police have been monitored Ahmidan since at least 2002, and have linked him to a group of suspect Islamist militants (see July 2003 and January 4, 2003). Most of the key Madrid bombers will be linked to this group. Police had asked a witness about Ahmidan less than a week before the bombings (see Evening, March 4, 2004). It is not known how long El Gnaoui has been under surveillance, but he was questioned at a police station five days before the bombings, and Ahmidan had frequently called him in late February when both their phones were tapped (see Evening, March 5, 2004). In the early morning hours of March 12, investigators discovered a phone card belonging to Jamal Zougam that was connected to an unexploded bomb (see March 12, 2004). By 10:00 a.m. investigators begin tracing who Zougam called using that phone card. Several hours later, it is discovered that Zougam called Ahmidan and many of his associates. It is not known which comes first, the discovery of a link between Zougam and Ahmidan, or the request to stop monitoring Ahmidan and El Gnaoui’s phones. But it appears the tapping of their phone does come to a stop and is not restarted for some days after that. Interestingly, the police also request to begin monitoring the phones of Rafa Zouhier. He is an informant who had a role in selling the explosives used in the bombings to Ahmidan (see September 2003-February 2004). [El Mundo (Madrid), 8/24/2005] Ahmidan will reportedly blow himself up a month after the bombings (see 9:05 p.m., April 3, 2004), while El Gnaoui will eventually be arrested and sentenced to life in prison for a role in the bombings (see October 31, 2007). Curiously, someone from within a police station will call El Gnaoui four times several weeks after the bombings and then try to hide this from investigators (see March 27-30, 2004).
Rafa Zouhier is an informant working for Spain’s Civil Guard. On March 16 and 17, 2004, he speaks to his handler, known by the alias Victor, and gives him vital leads that help break open the investigation into the Madrid train bombings on March 11 (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). He mentions that Jamal Ahmidan, alias “El Chino,” was a key member of the bomb plot. [Irujo, 2005, pp. 343-348] Then, according to phone transcripts, on March 17, 2004, he calls Victor again and correctly tells him the exact street where Ahmidan lives. Zouhier gives further details about what Ahmidan looks like, his car, his family, and so on. Seemingly, the police have enough information to find Ahmidan, but they do not attempt to go to his house. Nine days later, they will talk to Ahmidan’s wife and find out that he was there on March 17 and all the next day. Then, on the March 19, Ahmidan goes to the farm house he is renting where the bombs were built, which the police have yet to search (see March 18-26, 2004). After that, he goes to an apartment in the nearby town of Leganes, where most of the rest of the suspects are staying. So if police would have pursued the lead and then trailed Ahmidan, they would have been led to nearly all the main suspects. [El Mundo (Madrid), 7/3/2006] Police will arrest Zouhier on March 19 for not telling them more about the plot, and sooner. [El Mundo (Madrid), 4/9/2007] He will eventually be convicted and sentenced to more than 10 years in prison. [MSNBC, 10/31/2007]
Emilio Suarez Trashorras, a police informant, is questioned about the Madrid train bombings that took place one week before (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). The previous day, another informant named Rafa Zouhier spoke to police and named Trashorras, Jamal Ahmidan, and others as key figures in the purchase of the explosives used in the bombings (see March 17, 2004). Trashorras and Zouhier allegedly did not tell their handlers about the explosives purchase before the bombings, so they are both arrested and eventually convicted for roles in the bombings (see October 31, 2007). Trashorras confesses much information to the police, including the role of Ahmidan and the fact that the bombs were built in a farm house Ahmidan is renting in the nearby town of Morata. Police already are aware of the house because some of the Madrid bombings suspects were monitored meeting there in 2002 and 2003 (see October 2002-June 2003), but it has not been searched since the bombings. By chance, on March 19, Ahmidan returns to the Morata house and has dinner there with his family. However, police still have not acted on Trashorras’s tip and gone to the house, so they miss Ahmidan. Also on March 19, police publicly announce the arrest of Trashorras, causing Ahmidan to finally go into hiding (see March 19, 2004). He goes to the bombers’ hideout in the town of Leganes, which could have led police to most of the other bombers. Hamid Ahmidan, Jamal Ahmidan’s cousin, answers questions about the house to police on March 21 and reveals that many of the bombers were there just before the bombing. But remarkably, police do not search the house until March 26. By that time, Ahmidan and the other bombers who lived there are no longer there. [El Mundo (Madrid), 2/12/2006; El Mundo (Madrid), 9/18/2006; El Mundo (Madrid), 3/25/2008] Ahmidan and many of the other key bomb suspects allegedly blow themselves up in Leganes in early April (see 9:05 p.m., April 3, 2004).
Juan Jesus Sanchez Manzano. [Source: PBS]It is revealed that the man accused of supplying the dynamite used in the March 2004 Madrid train bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004) was an informant who had the private telephone number of the head of Spain’s Civil Guard bomb squad. Emilio Suarez Trashorras, a miner with access to explosives, as well as an associate named Rafa Zouhier both regularly informed for the Spanish police, telling them about drug shipments. [New York Times, 4/30/2004; London Times, 6/19/2004] Trashorras began working as an informant after being arrested for drug trafficking in July 2001, while Zouhier became an informant after being released from prison early in February 2002. [Irujo, 2005, pp. 277-288] Shortly after the Madrid bombings, investigators discover that Trashorras’ wife Carmen Toro has a piece of paper with the telephone number of Juan Jesus Sanchez Manzano, head of Tedax, the Civil Guard bomb squad. She and her brother Antonio Toro are also informants (September 2003-February 2004). All four of them were arrested on charges of supplying the explosives for the Madrid bombings (see March 2003 and September 2003-February 2004). [New York Times, 4/30/2004; London Times, 6/19/2004] The London Times later comments, “The revelation has raised fresh concerns in Madrid about links between those held responsible for the March bombings, which killed 190 people, and Spain’s security services, and shortcomings in the police investigation.” [London Times, 6/19/2004] Trashorras will eventually be sentenced to life in prison for his role in the bombings, Zouhier will also get a ten or more year prison term, and the Toros will be acquitted (see October 31, 2007). [MSNBC, 10/31/2007]
Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed. [Source: Associated Press]The trial of 28 people accused of a role in the 2004 Madrid train bombings comes to an end, and 21 are found guilty. However, only three are convicted of murder and are given life sentences: Jamal Zougam, Othman El Gnaoui, and Emilio Suarez Trashorras. Seven of the principal bombers blew themselves up one month after the bombings (see 9:05 p.m., April 3, 2004). None of the accused confessed, making convictions difficult. Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed was accused of being the bombing mastermind. While living it Italy, he reportedly bragged, “I was the leader of Madrid,” and “the Madrid bombings were my project, and those who died as martyrs there were my beloved friends.” But his defense attorneys argued successfully that the tapes were mistranslated and so they were thrown out as evidence. A counterterrorism expert says the court appeared to have a very strict standard of admissible evidence. However, Ahmed is serving a ten-year prison sentence in Italy based on unrelated charges. [Washington Post, 11/14/2004; MSNBC, 10/31/2007; New York Times, 11/1/2007] Many victims’ relatives complain that the sentences are too lenient. And a spokesperson for Spain’s main opposition party comments, “We still don’t know who gave the order, we still don’t know who built those bombs, and we still don’t know who was the coordinator of these cells that carried out these attacks.” [BBC, 11/1/2007] Some of the other verdicts:
Hamid Ahmidan - 23 years.
Rachid Aglif - 18 years.
Abdelmajid Bouchar - 18 years.
Basel Ghalyoun - 12 years.
Mohammed Larbi ben Sellam - 12 years.
Fouad el Morabit - 12 years.
Mouhannad Almallah - 12 years.
Rafa Zouhier - 10 years.
Youssef Belhadj - 12 years.
Antonio Toro - Acquitted.
Carmen Toro - Acquitted. [El Mundo (Madrid), 11/1/2007]
Entity Tags: Rachid Aglif, Mouhannad Almallah, Othman El Gnaoui, Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed, Rafa Zouhier, Mohammed Larbi ben Sellam, Emilio Suarez Trashorras, Hamid Ahmidan, Abdelmajid Bouchar, Antonio Toro, Basel Ghalyoun, Carmen Toro, Fouad el Morabit, Jamal Zougam, Youssef Belhadj
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
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