Originally Published 2004-03-08 04:09:26 Published on Mar 08, 2004
The Madrid Bombings is a clear indication of how horribly skewed and wrong the War on Terrorism has been. It would be convenient to accuse the United States for the manner in which the War was planned and executed as a personal agenda of an American President whose sole footnote in history has been to sow the seeds of a global religious divide.
The Madrid Cell
The Madrid Bombings is a clear indication of how horribly skewed and wrong the War on Terrorism has been. It would be convenient to accuse the United States for the manner in which the War was planned and executed as a personal agenda of an American President whose sole footnote in history has been to sow the seeds of a global religious divide. But the international community is no less guilty for allowing a war which is increasingly careening towards becoming a clash of cultures, if not civilizations. <br /> <br /> More distressingly, President George W. Bush has, in the name of waging a war on terrorism, spawned a mindset, especially in the Christian West, that goes delirious on the promise of a human trophy, hung or nailed in the public square of American Justice. President Bush's War has blinded the American public, and to a large extent others, to blood and gore of a war that has left thousands, scores of the innocent civilians, dead and millions of minds aflame with unbridled sparks of revenge. <br /> <br /> The fatal flaw in the American War on Terrorism, debated and discussed endlessly by intellectual giants of the western universities and think tanks in the past two years, was that it was planned like a surgery by a visionless surgeon armed with an axe. The American policy makers have not been able to go beyond the savagery of their forefathers who, in the name of conquering the New World, massacred a few million natives. This policy of Plunder and Kill continues even today, though under a sophisticated guise. So the policy makers found al Qaida in Afghanistan and for two years spent a few hundred billion dollar worth of ammunition on bare mountains and civilian population till they drove away the Taliban leadership from Kabul and installed a puppet ruler who cannot even trust his men to guard him. No less strange is the alacrity with which the policy makers in Washington embraced Pakistan as an ally in their war despite knowing well that Pakistan was a place where not only the Taliban but hundreds of religious extremist groups have been supplying fodder to the very terrorist infrastructure the US was trying to dismantle after the First Revenge on September 11, 2001. <br /> <br /> The Madrid Bombings is the second wave of revenge carried out by anonymous terrorists, grouping and regrouping furiously across the globe, including Spain, even when the American Juggernaut was blindly rolling across west Asia. Though it is too early in the day to make any definitive assessments, preliminary findings are pointing at the involvement of an extensive network of terror groups, often simplistically dubbed as al Qaida and a possible pattern of terrorist attacks that might occur in different parts of the world in the days to come. One of the persons arrested for questioning in the Madrid Bombings is a Moroccan named Jamal Zougam, a 30-year old office worker, who had been on the watch list of security agencies after the Casablanca bombings of May 2003 that killed over 30 persons. Nothing much is known about Zougam except that he was known to Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas alias Abu Dahdah alias the European head of Osama bin Laden's al Qaida network. Zougam, most likely, is one of the members of al Qaida's Madrid Cell, revived after the initial disbanding of the First Cell following the September 11 attacks and the arrest of Abu Dahdah for being one of the masterminds. <br /> <br /> Another interesting link which the investigators would increasingly look at is the possibility of a linkage between al Qaida and ETA (Euskadi ta Askatasuna, "Basque Fatherland and Liberty" in the Basque language), the Basque Separatist group. There have been intelligence reports that ETA members met with Laden and his group in Brussels to discuss a possible alliance between the two groups but without much success. Al Qaida members were upset by the presence of a Basque woman in the ETA delegation. Mohammad Atta, the suicide pilot who led the attack on the WTC, too had tried to link up with ETA when the Basque separatists were planning to bomb the Piccaso Tower during the Christmas of 1999 which could be seen, on hindsight, as part of the aborted Millennium Bombing which al Qaida had planned. <br /> <br /> Investigations into Atta's travels across Europe and Asia, prior to September 11, also reveal that the Madrid Cell played a key role-organisational mainly-in funding and providing logistics to the WTC attack. Atta, for instance, visited Spain twice-first on July 8, 2001 to Madrid to meet his group.Atta himself was in the Hamburg Cell with Marwan al Shehhi and Zia al Jarrah, the two other pilots who flew planes into the WTC Tower and the Pentagon. Atta returned to Spain on July 14 to visit Tarragona to meet an Algerian prisoner, Nizar Trabelski, known for his skills at forging travel and financial documents without which al Qaida members could not have networked across the world. One of the men who Atta visited or contacted regularly was Abu Dahdah. Dahdah headed the Madrid Cell and tied up the financial and logistic thread of the network. Dahdah liaisoned with Said Bahaji, the computer whizkid and logistics manager of the network, last seen in a seedy hotel in Karachi a day after September 11 before he took off for an unknown destination on a Turkish Airlines flight after sending a goodbye email to his wife in Germany. Bahaji's diary, recovered subsequently, had Dahdah's name. <br /> <br /> Dahdah's links were not limited to Europe. He was equally at ease in Indonesia where he worked closely with Jemaah Islamiah to train terrorists. Dahdah was not merely a logistics manager; he was fundraiser, recruiter and trainer of recruits besides being an efficient networker who traveled extensively. Dahdah's Indonesian link was Parlin-degan Siregar who was sent to Indonesia in late 2000 to set up training camps for terrorists in the island of Sulawesi. One of Dahdah's lieutenants was Yusef Galan, a former member of ETA, and an important member of the Madrid Cell. According to French intelligence expert Jean Charles Brisad, who has briefed the UN Security Council on al Qaida, Galan and Parlin met quite often both in Spain and Indonesia and planned the setting up of terrorist training camps in Indonesia. There is evidence of Parlin's contacts with Kuwait-based senior al Qaida operative, Omar al-Faruq and at least two Australians, Sheikh Mohammad Omran and Bilal Khazal of Sydney. <br /> <br /> One of Dahdah's associates was a cleric who lived in London, Abu Qatada. Dahdah met Qatada at least 20 times before the September 11 attacks. Qatada was granted asylum by Britain in 1993 after a Jordanian court sentenced him in absentia to life for his involvement in a series of explosions. Dahdah sent huge sums regularly to the London cleric. A week after the September 11 attacks, the British authorities discovered that the cleric, on welfare, wrote three cheques totaling &#163;5000. His Royal Bank of Scotland account, investigators found, once had a balance of &#163; 180,000. <br /> <br /> The only reason to explain the extensive network of terrorist groups and sympathizers is to emphasise the point that it exists even after two years of War on Terrorism and will continue not only to exist but also flourish unless the United States of America and its allies like Spain, Britain and Australia urgently review their counter-terrorism policies. <br /> <em>Email ID: [email protected]</em> <br /> <br /> <em>* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.</em>
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