Monday 29 November 2004

Britain's MI5 Mainly Responsible for Madrid's Deadly 3/11 Bombings

by Trowbridge H. Ford

While the established media lost all interest in the causes of the deadly Madrid bombings of March 11th, once the reactionary Popular Party government of José Maria Aznar was defeated in the general election three days later, the new Socialist government of José Luis Rodrigues Zapatero has pursued the matter with unwavering dedication, its commission on the matter confirming what this web site has maintained all along - it was the product of jailed, Syrian-born Eddin Barakat Yarkas aka Abu Dahdah. He apparently pulled off an even greater deception of Western counterterrorists than Osama bin-Laden's hijackers accomplished on 9/11. Aznar is increasingly contending, though, that they were still done by Eta, the Basque separatists.

The 3/11 disaster is a sad reminder of what imperialism means in the daily lives of people around the world, even those living in apparently safe Western Europe. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, American and British counterterrorist experts were so in charge that no one else could dispute what was going on, and how to counter any threats they may make. Washington and London knew best, and no one else had the temerity to challenge what they were claiming, and demanding. Poor Aznar's government was nothing more than a doormat for Anglo-American policymakers, jerked around by London and Washington to send troops to Iraq to quell the
unexpected resistance to the occupation, and to put the appropriate spin on the most unexpected attacks at home if they occurred.

Of course, to get Madrid on board for this great misadventure, London and Washington promised all kinds of protections and reassurances against any adverse repercussions. To protect Aznar's government from any attacks by the Basque separatists Eta, Britain made available all the signit information that its INTERSAT 707 satellite picked up over southern France - what the Echelon
station in Cornwall's Morwenstow was constantly monitoring. Thanks to any expressions terrorists used in plotting their attacks - e. g., allusions to Osama, Aznar, Iraq, cutting throats, achieving paradise and the like - London assured Madrid that it would suffer no blowback because of its support of the Coalition in toppling Saddam Hussein.

Washington was no less forthcoming in giving assurances to Madrid for any support it might provide. The National Security Agency would provide similar surveillance from southern Spain in Rota to what the British were providing in the north. In addition, American special forces were providing all kinds of counterterrorist training to troops in North African states to make sure that Al-Aqaeda did not pulll off any surprises on the Spanish mainland. Moreover, Britain and America were working hard so that Libya could be disarmed of its WMD, and rejoin the world community. For good measure, NATO was seriously considering moving its southern headquarters from Italy to southern Spain to meet better the challenges of Islamic extremism.

Right after the 9/11 attacks, Britain, thanks to its surveillance of Spanish airwaves, informed Madrid of the activities by Abu Dahdah's "rear guard base", especially his communications with hijacker Mohamed Atta, resulting in his arrest, and seven of his cohorts on November 18, 2001. Spain's High Center for Defence Intelligence (CESID), in making the arrests, found information that the Madrid cell was apparently planning attacks on all kinds of US and NATO facilities in Northern Europe. Five months later, CESID, it seemed, broke the back of Dahdah's network by catching bin-Laden's finance chief, Ahmed Brahim, in the San Joan Despi area of Barcelona, particularly because it was believed that the man the network was taking orders from, Muhammad Atef, had been killed by the US Air Force bombings of Tora Bora in Afghanistan.

Consequently, Britain's Security Service, MI5, increasingly thought that Britain would be the next important target of Dahdah's followers since they were regularly going to London to visit cleric Abu Qatada aka Omar Mahmud Othman, and other contacts there, particularly Abu Walid, Abu Al-Hareth, and Abu Bashir. They provided volunteers to the Taliban so that they could get the necessary training for carrying out new terrorist acts. As a result, Anglo-American counterterrorists increasingly played down the importance of attempts by Dahdah's followers to sink a ship in the Straits of Gilbraltar by a suicide attack, as other suicide bombers had attempted at Aden on the USS Cole in October 2000.

London and Washington did not even take seriously the possible role of Dahdah in the coordinated suicide attacks on Israeli, Belgian, and Spanish targets in Casablanca on May 16, 2003, in which 33 people were killed - resulting in Spanish and Moroccan counterterrorists tending to behave likewise. Obviously, Dahdah could not be directing anything important from his prison cell or else his communications in the field with his cohorts, "the chatter", would activate the alarms at Morwenstow.

MI5 became so convinced of its conspiracy theories about Aznar's problems that it put together its own plot about what Dahdah's disciples planned in Britain, thanks to the fact that Abu Qatada had now become its double agent. The Security Service arranged to make it look as if Canadian Mohammad Momin Khawaja, apparently an acquaintance of Qatada's, was the quartermaster of a domestic terrorist bombing by, it seems, securing the necessary fertilizer, centered around the activities of Waheed Mahmoud's PC UK Internet Cafe in Crawley. MI5 and the FBI even imagined that jihadist Jeffrey Leon Battle, one of the "Portland Seven" who had just been sentenced to 18 years in prison for attempting to fight with the Taliban, was somehow directing activities from his federal prison cell in Oregon.

The facts, though, were, unfortunately, totally different. Dahdah was carrying on from his Spanish prison cell as if his incarceration was no problem. He was communicating regularly with Jamel Zougham, whose PC shop in Madrid was making all the arrangements for the bombings despite the fact that his name had been on the watch lists - remember what happened to those on American watch lists before the 9/11 attacks! - of security agencies after the Casablanca bombings. In sum, Anglo-American counterrorists had their Spanish counterparts completely confused about what was in the offing.

When the devastating attacks occurred, US and British authorities, thanks to their concentrating upon Eta "chatter" in anticipation of a convenient Basque bombing to help Aznar's flagging electoral prospects, were completely surprised, as were CESID's, by what Dahdah had accomplished. To cover their tracks, as best they could, MI5 agent 'Gould' went around to Crawley in the hope getting all Mahmoud's associates to flee to Pakistan, stating that their arrest was imminent. Then Canadian Mounties arrested Khawaja on charges of conspiring to illegally obtain explosives, while terrorizing his family, and making a shambles of their house. Then, at the end of March, making good on 'Gould's threats, the "Crawley cell" - Jawad Akbar, Omar Khyam, Anthony Garcia, and others - was arrested on a variety of terrorist and immigration charges.

The FBI tried to keep the theory going by arresting one-time lawyer of Battle's in a child custody suit, former US Army Captain and convert to Islam Brandon Mayfield, after Spanish authorities supplied a finger print of one of the suspected terrorists, and the Bureau made a match with Mayfield after an inordinate length of time, and trying every method in the book for achieving so. Madrid ultimately discovered that it was one of Ouhnane Daoud's prints, a real suspect in the bombings.

While Britain and America were trying to escape from all the embarrassment caused by these heavy-handed arrests, and contorted charges which led nowhere, the Spanish commission investigating the tragedy determined that Dahdah had been its mastermind all along. "It is very clear to me," senior investigator Rafael Gómez Menor testified on October 26th, "if by mastermind we mean the person who has put the group together, prepared the group, trained it ideologically, sent them to Afghanistan to be prepared militarily for terrorism, that man is Abu Dahdah, without any doubt." (Renwick McLean, "Syrian is named as mastermind of Madrid attacks," International Herald-Tribune, October 27, 2004, p. 3)

In sum, the stage for the attacks had been set by Dahdah before he was imprisoned by Judge Baltasar Garzón in 2001, and it was simply a question of counterterrorists keeping track of what his followers were planning - what London and Washington prevented because of their wider, conspiratorial agendas to keep the misadventure in Iraq going. Little wonder that the Spanish people bailed out of it when they got the chance.