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spain

+ Overview

There are approximately 42.7 million people in Spain, of whom 1 million are Muslim. Less than 10 percent of Muslims hold Spanish citizenship, and most of Spain's Muslim immigrants come from Morocco, which is the point of origin for about 21 percent of all illegal immigrants in Spain. There are about 400 mosques in this country known for its rich history as a former territory of the Muslim Caliphate.

The March 11, 2004 attacks on a series of Madrid commuter trains killed 191 people.

The Muslim community is officially represented by the Islamic Commission of Spain (CIE), which is comprised of the Union of Islamic Communities in Spain and the Federation of Spanish Islamic Entities (FEERI). The CIE negotiated the Islamic community's signing of a bilateral agreement with the government in 1992. That year, the government also agreed to recognize Muslim holidays. Muslim leadership is currently in talks with the government to gain the inclusion of a tax form option for Islam; the Catholic church already enjoys this option, on which taxpayers can elect to contribute a percentage of their taxes to the church.

Although FEERI reports that Muslim communities have had difficulty in getting approval for mosque construction, a new mosque opened in Grenada in 2003. Anti-immigrant feelings reportedly are on the rise as crime rates increase, and the fallout from the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 and March 11, 2004 have led to increased prejudice against Muslims; however after March 11, there was no reported rise in violence against Muslims.

+ Major Terrorist Plots and Arrests

+ In July 2001, Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and alleged co-conspirator Ramzi bin al-Shibh met in Cambrils, Spain to finalize the plans for the attacks.

+ Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, a Syrian immigrant also known as Abu Dahdah, was arrested in November 2001 and indicted in September 2003 for allegedly heading an Al Qaeda cell in Spain. According to the indictment, Yarkas allegedly recruited members and sent them to Afghanistan for training. Spanish officials have also told the media that Yarkas is the "intellectual author" of the Madrid train attacks. In September 2005, Yarkas was acquitted of responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks, but convicted of assisting Al Qaeda before 9/11 and of leading the Madrid cell. He was sentenced to 27 years in prison.

+ On March 11, 2004, a series of bombs exploded as four early morning commuter trains approached Madrid's Atocha station. The worst terrorist attack in Western Europe's history killed 191 people and injured more than 1400. Spain ultimately arrested 62 in connection with the train attack, including Jamal Zougam, a Moroccan cell-phone store owner linked to the phones used to detonate the bombs, and Rabei Osman El Sayed Ahmed, the alleged mastermind of the attack who was arrested in Milan in June 2004. Another alleged ringleader of the attack, Sarhane "The Tunisian" Ben Abdelmajid Fakhet blew himself up when cornered by police on April 4, killing himself and seven others, including a police officer.

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+ In October 2004, Spanish police disrupted a plot to bomb multiple targets, including a skyscraper designed by the architect who designed the World Trade Center; the offices of anti-terrorism judge Baltasar Garzón; the soccer stadium where the Real Madrid club plays; and the Atocha train station, the site of the March 11 bombings. More than 30 suspects have been held in relation to the plot.


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posted jan. 25, 2005; updated feb. 6, 2006

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