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Suspects Indicted in Madrid Train Attacks

BY Admin  April 11, 2006 at 1:00 PM EST

Judge Juan Del Olmo, a magistrate at the National Court for investigating terrorism, submitted a 1,500-page report concluding that the attacks were carried out by a local Islamic cell without direct links to al-Qaida but that had been inspired by an Islamic essay published on the Internet.

“It took its inspiration from a Web site that called on local Islamists to stage attacks in Spain before the 2004 general elections to prompt withdrawal of troops from Iraq,” said a court spokeswoman.

The bombers detonated 10 backpack bombs on four crowded commuter trains using cell phones.

The indictments came after a two-year investigation into Spain’s worst terrorist attack that was credited with heavily influencing the country’s general elections held three days after the bombing. The then-ruling Partido Popular, a conservative party that supported the war in Iraq, immediately blamed the attacks on the Basque separatist group ETA.

When evidence surfaced linking militant Islamists to the attacks, voters elected the Socialist government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero who ran promising to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq.

Del Olmo charged six people with 191 counts of terrorist killings, which could each carry a sentence of up to 30 years, and 1,755 attempted murders. Five of the six lead suspects are also charged with belonging to a terrorist organization.

Suspects include Jamal Zougam, a Moroccan merchant who allegedly supplied cell phones used as detonators, and Jose Emilio Suarez Trashorras, a former miner who is accused of supplying the bombers with explosives. The indictment said four witnesses identified Zougam as having been aboard trains that were bombed that day.

Another 23 people were charged with collaboration, according to Reuters.

Last month, a senior Spanish intelligence official and a Western investigator closely involved in counterterrorism measures told the Associated Press that there was no evidence linking the Islamist cell in Spain with Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network.

The trial may not begin until early next year and is expected to take almost a year because of its complexity. Even if convicted, Spanish law prohibits criminals from spending more than 40 years in prison. Spain has no death penalty or life imprisonment.