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a.k.a. Abu Dahdah
Al Jazeera reporter Tayseer Allouni makes several trips to Turkey and Afghanistan, taking money with him and giving it to people who are later said to be militants. Allouni, some of whose telephone conversations are recorded by Spanish authorities from the mid-1990s (see 1995 and After), makes numerous trips to Turkey and Afghanistan, carrying no more than $4,000 each time. Allouni’s associates include Mamoun Darkazanli and Mohammed Haydar Zammar, who are linked to 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and Ziad Jarrah (see November 1, 1998-February 2001 and October 9, 1999), as well as Spain-based al-Qaeda operative Barakat Yarkas, who also is in contact with Darkazanli and Zammar (see August 1998-September 11, 2001). (Miles 2005, pp. 306-313) In 2000, Allouni is monitored by the Spanish government as he makes several trips to Afghanistan. His lawyer will later concede that he was given $35,000 by Yarkas, and Allouni will acknowledge that he did carry thousands of dollars from Yarkas to Afghanistan, Turkey, and Chechnya. (Crewdson 10/19/2003) However, Allouni will later say he is not a member of al-Qaeda and was only taking the money to friends and other Syrian exiles. He will later interview Osama bin Laden (see October 20, 2001) and be sentenced to jail for his alleged al-Qaeda membership (see September 26, 2005). (Miles 2005, pp. 306-313)
The Spanish government begins monitoring an al-Qaeda cell based in Madrid and led by Barakat Yarkas. The cell members call themselves the “Soldiers of Allah.” The New York Times will later report that a document listing telephone intercepts “makes clear that Spanish intelligence has been watching Mr. Yarkas and listening to him in his interactions with other suspected al-Qaeda operatives around Europe and Asia since at least 1997.” (Dillon 11/20/2001) In fact, Spain begins monitoring the cell in 1995, if not earlier. (Irujo 2005, pp. 23-40) The cell formed in the early 1990s, and the members distributed literature at a Madrid mosque about the activities of Islamist militants, including communiqués issued by Osama bin Laden. They indoctrinate some young Muslims who were interested, and recruit several to fight in Bosnia. Yarkas and others in the cell pose as middle-class businesspeople, but they also are observed committing a variety of crimes to raise money for al-Qaeda (see Late 1995 and After). Yarkas frequently travels, going to such countries as Turkey, Belgium, Sweden, Jordan, Denmark, Indonesia, and Malaysia. He makes more than 20 trips to Britain. By 1998, he is in contact with members of the same al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg that contains participants in the 9/11 plot such as Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi. But while Spanish intelligence shares their surveillance with the CIA, they do not inform German intelligence (see August 1998-September 11, 2001). In 1998, a Saudi millionaire named Mohammed Galeb Kalaje Zouaydi moves to Spain and interacts with members of the cell, and soon the Spanish begin monitoring him too. It will later be alleged that Zouaydi is a key al-Qaeda financier. In July 2001, Spanish intelligence will hear members of the cell planning for a meeting in Spain that is attended by Atta and others, but apparently they will fail to monitor the meeting itself (see Before July 8, 2001 and July 8-19, 2001). In 2003, the Spanish government will charge a number of people they claim are members of the cell. Some will be convicted for having al-Qaeda ties, and some will not. Yarkas will get a 25-year sentence (see September 26, 2005). Most of the evidence against them will actually have been collected before 9/11. (Dillon 11/20/2001; Crewdson 10/19/2003)
Beginning in 1995, Barakat Yarkas, head of an al-Qaeda cell in Madrid, Spain, begins traveling frequently to Britain. Yarkas is being constantly monitored by Spanish intelligence (see 1995 and After) and they learn that his cell is raising money for the Islamist militants in Chechnya who are fighting the Russian army there. Yarkas and fellow cell member Said Chedadi solicit funds from Arab business owners in Madrid and then take the cash to radical imam Abu Qatada in London. Abu Qatada is coordinating fundraising efforts, and from June 1996 onwards, he is also working as an informant for British intelligence, although just how long and how closely he works for them is unclear (see June 1996-February 1997). (Irujo 2005, pp. 64-65) According to a later Spanish government indictment, Yarkas makes over 20 trips from Spain to Britain roughly between 1995 and 2000. He mostly meets with Qatada and Abu Walid, who an indictment will later call Abu Qatada’s right-hand man. From 1998 onwards, Spanish militant Jamal Zougam also travels occasionally to London to meet with Qatada. Investigators later suspect he travels with Yarkas on at least one of these trips. (Burrell 11/21/2001; Lazaro 7/8/2005) From 1996 to 1998, an informant named Omar Nasiri informs on Abu Qatada and Walid for British intelligence (see Summer 1996-August 1998). Nasiri sometimes passes phones messages between the both of them and al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida, and also reveals that Walid has been to al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. (Nasiri 2006, pp. 265-282) Waild, a Saudi, apparently will be killed in Chechnya in 2004. (Cobain and O'Murchu 10/3/2006) In February 2001, British police will raid Abu Qatada’s house and find $250,000, including some marked “for the Mujaheddin in Chechnya” (see February 2001). However, he will not be arrested, and it is not clear if he and/or Yarkas continue raising money for Chechnya after the raid. Chedadi will later be sentenced to eight years and Zougam will get life in prison for roles in the 2004 Madrid train bombings (see October 31, 2007). (Agence France-Presse 1/26/2006)
In 1995, a Spanish intelligence agency begins monitoring Moutaz Almallah as it starts monitoring the al-Qaeda Madrid cell led by Barakat Yarkas (see 1995 and After). Almallah is considered Yarkas’s main assistant and also is the “political chief” of the cell. In 1998, Almallah and Yarkas were photographed at an airport in Spain meeting with Mohamed Bahaiah, known to be a courier for bin Laden. Judge Baltasar Garzon leads the investigation. (Escriva and Marraco 3/2/2005; BBC 3/24/2005) In November 1995, Spanish police officer Ayman Maussili Kalaji, a Spanish citizen originally from Syria, sells an apartment to Almallah. Kalaji will later admitting to having a long time acquaintance with Almallah. Kalaji has a suspicious background, including a connection to Soviet espionage, and at some point he serves as Garzon’s bodyguard (see May 16, 2005). (Mugica 8/22/2005) In November 2001, Garzon will arrest Yarkas and the main figures in his cell, but Almallah will not be arrested (see November 13, 2001). (Escriva and Marraco 3/2/2005) Almallah will move to London in 2002 to live with radical imam Abu Qatada (see August 2002). He will be arrested in 2005 for a role in the Madrid bombings. In 2005, a police commissioner will request the arrest of police officer Kalaji, but a judge will deny the request (see May 16, 2005).
Spanish intelligence is monitoring an al-Qaeda cell in Madrid led by Barakat Yarkas (see 1995 and After). By late 1995, Spanish authorities discover the cell members are taking part in a variety of criminal acts, including credit card theft, stealing bank account numbers, and selling stolen cars. Some of the money raised is being used to send recruits to al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. However, the authorities are content to merely watch this criminal activity and collect information. None of the cell members will be arrested until after 9/11, six years later. (Irujo 2005, pp. 23-40)
Spanish intelligence learns that al-Qaeda leader Mustafa Setmarian Nasar, a.k.a. Abu Musab al-Suri, has visited Mamoun Darkazanli in Hamburg this year. Darkazanli is an associate of the 9/11 hijackers living in Hamburg. The Spanish are aware of Nasar due to his links to Barakat Yarkas, as Yarkas and his Madrid cell are being monitored (see 1995 and After). It is unknown if the Spanish realize that Nasar is an important al-Qaeda leader at this time, but they do learn that he met Osama bin Laden. (Vidino 5/21/2004; Brisard and Martinez 2005, pp. 109-110, 195) Nasar receives $3,000 from Darkazanli while living in Britain in 1995 through 1996. This is according to German police documents, and it is unknown if German and/or Spanish authorities are aware of this link at the time. (Crewsdon 7/12/2005) In 1998, the Spanish will discover that Darkazanli and Yarkas are in frequent phone contact with each other. They share their information with the CIA (see August 1998-September 11, 2001). Nasar leaves Britain in 1996 after realizing the British authorities suspect his involvement in a series of 1995 bombings in France (see July-October 1995). (Vidino 5/21/2004) He will be arrested in Pakistan in 2005 after the US announces a $5 million reward for his capture (see October 31, 2005).
Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a member of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell with three of the 9/11 hijackers, is monitored as he gets help in meeting al-Qaeda spiritual leader Abu Qatada in Britain. In March 1997, Zammar in Germany calls Barakat Yarkas in Spain. Yarkas is widely seen as the top leader of al-Qaeda in Spain, and Spanish intelligence is monitoring his calls. Telephone intercepts show that Zammar tells Yarkas, “I want to meet with brother Abu Qatada,” Zammar said, according to a transcript of the conversation. Yarkas replies, “Yes, I’ll talk to him and I’ll ask him.” Yarkas gives Qatada’s phone number to Zammar two days later. Zammar goes on to meet Qatada, but details of that meeting are unknown. (Laabs 1/30/2003) Yarkas has been traveling to Britain for years, meeting with Qatada and giving him money (see 1995-February 2001). In 1996 or 1997, US intelligence learns that Qatada is a key spiritual adviser for al-Qaeda (see June 1996-1997). Shortly before Zammar’s call to Yarkas, British intelligence recruited Qatada as an informant, although he may not be a fully honest one (see June 1996-February 1997). It is unknown if Zammar’s visit with Qatada becomes known to US or German intelligence. Zammar may introduce Hamburg cell member Said Bahaji to Qatada, because Qatada’s phone number will be found in Bahaji’s address book shortly after 9/11 (see Shortly After September 11, 2001).
Reda Hassaine, an Algerian journalist who informs for a number of intelligence services, including an Algerian service, the French Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE), and the British Special Branch and MI5, helps intelligence agencies track Zacarias Moussaoui and shoe-bomber Richard Reid. One place Hassaine sees Moussaoui and Reid is the Four Feathers club, where leading Islamist cleric Abu Qatada preaches. (Dovkants 1/28/2005; O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 133) Hassaine also sees Moussaoui, Reid, and Spanish al-Qaeda leader Barakat Yarkas at the Finsbury Park mosque in London. The mosque, a hotbed of Islamic extremism headed by Abu Hamza al-Masri, is the center of attention for many intelligence agencies. Hassaine does not realize how important these people will later become at this time, but recognizes their faces when they become famous after 9/11. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 133) British intelligence also monitor phone calls between Moussaoui and Reid in 2000 (see Mid-2000-December 9, 2000).
An investigation of al-Qaeda contacts in Hamburg by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence service, begins at least by this time (Germany refuses to disclose additional details). The investigation is called Operation Zartheit (Operation Tenderness), and it was started by a tip about Mohammed Haydar Zammar from Turkish intelligence (see 1996). (New York Times 1/18/2003)
Zammar Linked to Hamburg 9/11 Cell and Bin Laden - It is later believed that Zammar, a German of Syrian origin, is a part of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. (Rotella 1/14/2003) Zammar will later claim that he recruited 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and others into the cell. (Washington Post 6/12/2002) German intelligence is aware that he was personally invited to Afghanistan by bin Laden. (Schrom and Laabs 2/2/2003) The investigation into Zammar allegedly stops in early 2000, after investigators conclude they don’t have enough evidence to convict him of any crime. (Stark 11/21/2005)
CIA Involved with Zammar Operation - Vanity Fair will later claim that “A lone CIA agent, the Germans disclose, attempted to work alongside them” in Operation Zartheit, but German “requests for greater information and cooperation from the CIA, they claim, came to naught.” (Zeman et al. 11/2004) This CIA agent is probably Thomas Volz, who is the CIA’s undercover agent in Hamburg at the time (see December 1999).
Spanish intelligence has been monitoring an al-Qaeda cell based in Madrid led by Barakat Yarkas (see 1995 and After), and they are aware that a leader of the cell named Chej Salah left Spain in late 1995 and moved to Peshawar, Pakistan. He serves there as an al-Qaeda talent scout, sending the most promising recruits to a training camp in Afghanistan. Yarkas’s cell is recruiting youths in Spanish mosques to join al-Qaeda. On May 22, 1997, the Spanish monitor a phone call in which Salah tells Yarkas that the recruits he is sending are being taken care of by al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida. Despite such knowledge, the Spanish government will not arrest any members of the Madrid cell until after 9/11. This is according to a book by Jose María Irujo, lead investigative journalist for the Spanish newspaper El Pais. (Irujo 2005, pp. 23-40)
According to a November 2001 Spanish government indictment, in August 1997, a Syrian Islamist militant named Abu Bashir is arrested in Yemen and accused of plotting to assassinate the Yemeni deputy prime minister. He is soon deported to Malaysia. London imam Abu Qatada then contacts Osama bin Laden and asks him for his help to get settled with a job and house in Malaysia. Then, in June 1998, Spanish al-Qaeda leader Barakat Yarkas and Qatada arrange for Bashir to move to London. The Observer will report in March 2004 that Bashir apparently is still living in public housing in London. (Townsend et al. 3/21/2004) Presumably the Spanish government knows this because Spanish intelligence is heavily monitoring Yarkas at the time, and he is frequently meeting with Qatada in London (see 1995-February 2001). Qatada is working as a British government informant around this time (see June 1996-February 1997). The exact identity of Abu Bashir is not known as there are several al-Qaeda-linked figures with a similar name.
A German newspaper will later note, “For much of the 1990s, the Spanish ran an impressive operation against a Madrid al-Qaeda cell, led by Barakat Yarkas, also known as Abu Dahdah. Wiretaps on Yarkas’s phone had revealed that he was in regular contact with [Mohammed Haydar] Zammar and [Mamoun] Darkazanli.” Spanish intelligence began monitoring Yarkas’ cell in 1997, if not earlier (see 1995 and After). It shares this information with the CIA, but not with German intelligence. The CIA also fails to share the information with Germany. A top German intelligence official will later complain, “We simply don’t understand why they didn’t give it to us.” (Laabs 8/13/2003) Spanish intelligence monitors dozens of telephone calls between Darkazanli in Hamburg and suspected al-Qaeda operatives in Spain starting at least by August 1998. On at least four occasions, Darkazanli is monitored as he travels to Spain and visits Yarkas and Mohammed Galeb Kalaje Zouaydi (who will be arrested in Spain in 2002 on charges of being a key al-Qaeda financier (see April 23, 2002)). (Crewdson 10/19/2003) For instance, at the end of January 2000, Darkazanli is monitored by Spanish intelligence as he meets with Yarkas and some other some suspected al-Qaeda figures. Because the CIA and Spanish intelligence fail to share any of this surveillance information with German intelligence, the Germans are unable to see clear links between Hamburg al-Qaeda operatives and the rest of the al-Qaeda network in Europe. (Crewdson 11/17/2002) The Spanish will continue to monitor Yarkas and those he communicates with until 9/11, and in fact, in late August 2001 one of his associates will apparently make an oblique reference to the 9/11 attacks (see August 27, 2001).
By 2000, a Moroccan living in Spain named Jamal Zougam begins to attract the attention of Spanish intelligence. Barakat Yarkas frequently travels to London to meet with al-Qaeda-linked imam Abu Qatada, and Zougam accompanies Yarkas on at least one of these trips (see 1995-February 2001). Spanish intelligence is monitoring Yarkas and his cell, and they are aware that Zougam is introduced to Qatada as “a gifted young recruit.” (Agence France-Presse 3/17/2004; Irujo 2005, pp. 77-79) In June 2001, a French investigator warns that Zougam is an important militant with international links and advise the Spanish to arrest him (see June 2001). Around the same time, Spanish investigators learn that Zougam met with Mohammed Fazazi, a Moroccan imam who preached at the Al-Quds mosque in Hamburg, Germany, that is attended by some of the 9/11 hijackers (see 1993-Late 2001). On August 14, 2001, Zougam is recorded telling Yarkas that he had offered Fazazi money for the jihad cause. Fazazi is also linked to Abu Qatada and had met him in London. After the May 2003 Casablanca bombings (see May 16, 2003), interest in Zougam increases as the Moroccan, Spanish, and French governments all suspect he was involved in those bombings. But he is still not arrested, and his surveillance in Spain is not increased, apparently due to lack of resources. (Golden and van Natta 3/17/2004; Townsend et al. 3/21/2004) In the days before the March 2004 Madrid train bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004), Zougam makes about a dozen phone calls to contacts in London. He is said to talk to four al-Qaeda suspects, as well as a “radical London-based preacher” - a possible reference to Abu Qatada. Zougam will later be sentenced to life in prison for playing a direct role in the Madrid bombings. (Williams 11/1/2007) After the Madrid bombings, British authorities will say that there was a “definite link” to Britain in the bomb plot. Zougam is believed to have made trips to London in search of funding, planning, and logistical help, and supplying equipment and false identification papers for the bombers. (Bennetto 3/19/2004) One figure believed central to the bomb plot, Moutaz Almallah, will be arrested in London in 2005 and extradited to Spain in 2007 (see May 16, 2005).
German investigators finally agree to the CIA’s request to recruit businessman Mamoun Darkazanli as an informant. An agent of the LfV, the Hamburg state intelligence agency, casually approaches Darkazanli and asks him whether he is interested in becoming a spy. Darkazanli replies that he is just a businessman who knows nothing about al-Qaeda or terrorism. The Germans inform the local CIA representative that the approach failed. The CIA agent persists, asking the German agent to continue to try. However, when German agents ask for more information to show Darkazanli they know of his terrorist ties, the CIA fails to give them any information. As it happens, at the end of January 2000, Darkazanli had just met with Barakat Yarkas in Madrid, Spain. (Crewdson 11/17/2002) Darkazanli is a longtime friend and business partner of Yarkas, the most prominent al-Qaeda agent in Spain. Yarkas has long been under surveillance by Spanish intelligence, and they have been sharing that intelligence with the CIA (see August 1998-September 11, 2001). (Rotella 1/14/2003) The meeting included other suspected al-Qaeda figures, and it was monitored by Spanish police. If the CIA is aware of the Madrid meeting, they do not tell the Germans. (Crewdson 11/17/2002) A second LfV attempt to recruit Darkazanli also fails. The CIA then attempts to work with federal German intelligence officials in Berlin to “turn” Darkazanli. Results of that effort are not known. (Crewdson 11/17/2002)
Parlindungan Siregar, an Indonesian, has been studying in Spain since 1987, and has begun working with Barakat Yarkas, head of the al-Qaeda cell in Madrid. In October 2000, he returns to Indonesia, but remains in constant phone contact with Yarkas. Spanish intelligence has been monitoring Yarkas’s phone calls for years (see 1995 and After). Linking with Indonesian militants, Siregar begins organizing an al-Qaeda training camp near the town of Poso, on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. (Conboy 2003, pp. 224-225) Soon thereafter, Madrid cell member Yusuf Galan is monitored as he receives e-mails from Siregar assessing the situation in Indonesia. For instance, one e-mail says, “You can do many things here. With only five million pesetas ($50,000 dollars), we can buy an island of 200 hectares that would be very useful. But our main need now is the weapons. Remember that everything we do should approach toward jihad.” (Irujo 7/15/2007) In May 2001, Yarkas travels to Indonesia to assess the new camp, called Camp Mujahidin. By the time he arrives, there already are some recruits being trained, including an Australian citizen. Impressed, Yarkas returns to Spain and makes arrangements for al-Qaeda to properly fund the camp. Galan brings the money to Siregar at the camp in July 2001. However, the Spanish government does not share any of what it learned with the Indonesian government until November 2001, when the allegations are made public as part of some Spanish indictments (see November 13, 2001). But the camp is shut down shortly after the 9/11 attacks, and by November, Siregar and other operatives cannot be found. (Conboy 2003, pp. 224-225) Siregar will later be linked to the 2002 Bali bombings (see October 12, 2002). In 2007, it will be reported that he is one of the most wanted al-Qaeda figures world-wide and on many wanted lists. (Irujo 7/15/2007)
Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta makes a short trip to Spain and Germany. On January 4, 2001, he flies from Miami, Florida, to Madrid, Spain. He has allegedly been in the US since June 3, 2000, learning to fly in Florida with fellow 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi. (Morgan, Kidwell, and Corral 9/22/2001) Spanish authorities will later say Atta meets Barakat Yarkas, head of a Spanish al-Qaeda cell, on the trip. After Yarkas is arrested in late 2001, an interview with him by a high court judge will indicate that “numerous lines to Sept. 11 principals passed through [him].” (Sennott 8/4/2002) Atta also makes a brief visit to Hamburg, Germany, at this time. One college student acquiantance of his, an Egyptian named Nader el-Abd, will later recall seeing Atta at this time. “I asked him where he had been,” el-Abd will say. “He said he was looking for somewhere to do his PhD.” (Fouda and Fielding 2003, pp. 133-134) Atta returns to the US on January 10 (see January 10, 2001). He will make a second trip to Spain in July of this year (see July 8-19, 2001).
British police raid the house of radical London imam Abu Qatada and find the equivalent of $250,000 in cash under his bed. Abu Qatada claims that the money is for the construction of a new mosque. However, $1,174 is in an envelope marked “for the Mujaheddin in Chechnya.” (BBC 8/11/2005) At the time, Qatada has no money-making job and is living with a wife and four children on government benefits worth $150 a week plus other housing aid. (Cowell 10/26/2002) Spanish intelligence has known for years that al-Qaeda leader Barakat Yarkas has been frequently traveling to London and giving Qatada money for Chechnya that was raised in Spain (see 1995-February 2001). It is not known it the Spanish shared this intelligence with the British. Authors Sean O’Niell and Daniel McGrory will later write, “Jihad supporters have since confirmed that Abu Qatada was known throughout Britain as a conduit for funds destined for the Chechen fighters. Some of that money had been raised—directly and indirectly—in British mosques. There were straightforward appeals for the Chechen struggle, and rather more opaque pleas for charitable donations which were then siphoned off to the militants.” (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 67-8) Abu Qatada has a relationship with British counterintelligence (see June 1996-February 1997 and Early December 2001).
In June 2001, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, a French judge who specializes in terrorism cases, concludes that Jamal Zougam, a Moroccan who owns a cell phone store in Madrid, Spain, is a major contact for Islamist militant recruits in Europe and Morocco. He warns the Spanish government that Zougam should be arrested. (Wright 7/26/2004) The French became interested in Zougam because of his links to David Courtailler, a French convert to Islam. The CIA told the French in 1998 that Courtailler and others had just come back from an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan to plan attacks in Europe. The French tracked Courtailler to London (where he was roommates with Zacarias Moussaoui (see 1996-2001 and After August 7, 1998). Then they tracked him to Madrid and Tangier, Morocco, where he met with Zougam and Abdelaziz Benyaich, another Islamist militant. (Smith 5/28/2004) The Spanish were already monitoring Zougam in 2000, and had linked him with Barakat Yarkas, leader of an al-Qaeda cell in Madrid, and the radical British imam Abu Qatada (see 2000-Early March 2004). But Zougam is not arrested. In November 2001, the main suspects in Yarkas’s cell will be arrested, but again Zougam will remain free (see November 13, 2001). Bruguiere will have to wait a year before the Spanish police will allow him to question Zougam. Bruguiere will later comment, “In 2001, all the Islamist actors in Madrid were identified.” (Wright 7/26/2004) Zougam will eventually be sentenced to life in prison for a key role in the 2004 Madrid train bombings. (Williams 11/1/2007)
At the same time as Mohamed Atta and one of his associates, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, meet in the north of Spain to finalize the details of the 9/11 plot (see July 8-19, 2001), other al-Qaeda operatives hold a parallel meeting in Granada, in the south of the country. Spanish authorities are monitoring some of these operatives, at least, and overhear their discussions. On July 6, the Spanish intercept a call from Mamoun Darkazanli, an associate of Atta’s from Germany, to Barakat Yarkas, head of an al-Qaeda affiliate in Spain, in which Darkazanli says that he has arrived in Granada. Yarkas tells Darkazanli that he has arrived in the city on July 10. They are joined by Al Jazeera reporter Tayseer Allouni and possibly Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a relative of Allouni’s wife and associate of Atta and Darkazanli from Germany. The Spanish later overhear a conversation in which Yarkas discusses Zammar’s movements at this time. Spanish authorities will later doubt that these four operatives actually meet Atta and bin al-Shibh in Spain, but will suspect a connection between the two meetings, especially as Yarkas seems to have made preparations for the other meeting (see Before July 8, 2001). (Rotella 1/14/2003; Miles 2005, pp. 305-313)
European operatives connected to al-Qaeda appear to be making preparations for a summit between lead hijacker Mohamed Atta and associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh in Spain to finalize the details of the 9/11 plot (see July 8-19, 2001). As these European operatives are known to Spanish authorities, the preparations are monitored. For example, a conversation between operatives Barakat Yarkas and Amer el-Azizi is overheard. However, Spanish authorities do not pass this information on to their German counterparts. (Johnson et al. 3/19/2004; Zeman et al. 11/2004) El-Azizi is also overheard talking to an Algerian, possibly Mohammed Belfatmi, based in Tarragona, where Atta stays for part of the time he is in Spain. (Rotella 4/29/2004) In one recorded conversation between Yarkas and another militant, Yarkas says that “Amer”—presumably a reference to Amer al-Azizi—is handling the arrangements for a meeting. (Rotella 4/14/2004) Police will later find el-Azizi’s address book; it contains the names of three contacts in the small town of Reus, where bin al-Shibh landed when he flew in from Germany. (Johnson and Crawford 4/7/2004) These European operatives hold a parallel meeting elsewhere in Spain (see July 6, 2001 and Shortly After) and some may also meet with Atta and bin al-Shibh (see July 8-19, 2001). El-Azizi’s arrest will be frustrated by Spanish intelligence after 9/11 (see October 2001 and Shortly After November 21, 2001) and he will go on to be involved in the 2004 Madrid bombings (see Before March 11, 2004 and 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004).
Some al-Qaeda operatives hold a meeting in northern Spain to finalize plans for the 9/11 attacks. Those allegedly present are listed below. The first two operatives listed are definitely present; it is less certain that the others are there:
Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. (Olmedo 9/30/2001)
Ramzi bin al-Shibh, an associate of Atta from Hamburg, arrives in Spain on July 9, and stays until July 16. Spanish authorities are notified of his arrival in the country by German intelligence (see (Around July 9, 2001)). (Frantz 5/1/2002)
Some reports say that 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi attends, although if he does, he may use a false identity, as US immigration has no records of his departure or return. (Olmedo 9/30/2001; US Department of Justice 5/20/2002)
The Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia will later report that 9/11 hijackers Waleed and Wail Alshehri meet Atta on July 16. (Associated Press 9/27/2001) However, there will be no mention of them attending the meeting in some other accounts. For example, their attendance will not be mentioned in the relevant section of the 9/11 Commission Report. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 243-5)
Amer el-Azizi. (Johnson and Crawford 4/7/2004; Shrader 1/23/2005) El-Azizi, who seems to have made preparations for the meeting, is under surveillance at this time, as Spanish authorities are listening in on his phone calls. (Johnson et al. 3/19/2004) Calls possibly related to the meeting’s organization were overheard (see Before July 8, 2001). (Rotella 4/14/2004; Rotella 4/29/2004) Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon will later indict el-Azizi for helping plan 9/11 and say that he assisted the plotters by arranging accommodation for them and acting as a courier. However, US officials will be less certain of his involvement. (Shrader 1/23/2005) His arrest shortly after 9/11 will be frustrated by Spanish intelligence (see October 2001 and Shortly After November 21, 2001) and he will go on to be involved in the 2004 Madrid bombings (see Before March 11, 2004 and 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004).
Barakat Yarkas, head of an al-Qaeda-linked cell in Spain. (Dillon 11/20/2001; Rotella 1/14/2003)
Mohammed Belfatmi. Belfatmi is an associate of Yarkas, and lives near the hotels where Atta and bin al-Shibh stay. He will flee Europe just before 9/11 with Said Bahaji, a member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg (see September 3-5, 2001). (Rotella 1/14/2003; BBC Worldwide Monitoring 12/2/2004)
Mamoun Darkazanli and Mohammed Haydar Zammar, associates of Atta’s from Germany.
Al Jazeera reporter Tayseer Allouni.
Said Bahaji, a member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg. According to Spanish investigators, Bahaji is with Atta the entire time, and they both stay at the Monica Hotel. (Fouda and Fielding 2003, pp. 137)
9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). In 2002, Al Jazeera journalist Yosri Fouda will allegedly interview bin al-Shibh and KSM together before either of them are arrested (see April, June, or August 2002). Neither bin al-Shibh nor KSM will discuss any details of the meeting with Fouda, including who attended. KSM will neither confirm nor deny he was there. However, in a 2003 book, Fouda will claim that, according to Spanish investigators, the initial attendees are Atta, bin al-Shibh, Bahaji, and a fourth man who might be KSM. They are later joined by Alshehhi and two unnamed others. (Fouda and Fielding 2003, pp. 137)
However, there is a parallel meeting in Granada, in the south of Spain, at this time, and Yarkas, Darkazanli, Zammar, and Allouni may only be at that meeting, and may not meet Atta and bin al-Shibh in person (see July 6, 2001 and Shortly After). (Dillon 11/20/2001; Rotella 1/14/2003) After being captured, bin al-Shibh will deny meeting anyone other than Atta while in Spain. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 243-5) However, questions will be raised about the quality of information obtained from detainees due to the methods—including torture—used to extract it (see June 16, 2004). The movements of Atta and his associates in Spain are apparently mirrored by those of FBI agents John O’Neill and Mark Rossini (see July 5-16, 2001).
Spanish police tape a series of cryptic, coded phone calls from a caller in Britain using the codename “Shakur” to Barakat Yarkas (also known as Abu Dahdah), the leader of a Spanish al-Qaeda cell presumably visited by Mohamed Atta in July. A Spanish judge will claim that a call by a man using the alias “Shakur” on this day shows foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. “Shakur” says that he is “giving classes” and that “in our classes, we have entered the field of aviation, and we have even cut the bird’s throat.” Another possible translation is, “We are even going to cut the eagle’s throat,” which would be a clearer metaphor for the US. (Harris 11/25/2001; Gillan et al. 2/14/2002) Spanish authorities later claim that detective work and voice analysis shows “Shakur” is Farid Hilali, a young Moroccan who had lived mostly in Britain since 1987. The Spanish later will charge him for involvement in the 9/11 plot, claiming that, in the 45 days preceding 9/11, he travels constantly in airplanes “to analyse them and to be prepared for action.” It will be claimed that he is training on aircraft in the days leading up to 9/11. It will further be said that he is connected to the Madrid train bombing in 2003. (Kennedy, Ford, and Tendler 6/30/2004; Hurst 7/15/2004; Kennedy 7/16/2004) The Spanish Islamic militant cell led by Yarkas is allegedly a hub of financing, recruitment, and support services for al-Qaeda in Europe. Yarkas’s phone number will later also be found in the address book of Said Bahaji, and he had ties with Mohammed Haydar Zammar and Mamoun Darkazanli. All three are associates of Atta in Hamburg. (Rotella 11/23/2001) Yarkas also “reportedly met with bin Laden twice and was in close contact with” top deputy Muhammad Atef. (Finn and Rolfe 11/19/2001) On November 11, 2001, Yarkas and ten other Spaniards will be arrested and charged with al-Qaeda activity. (Dillon 11/20/2001)
In searches conducted shortly after the 9/11 attacks, investigators discover direct links between the 9/11 hijacker cell in Hamburg and the Madrid al-Qaeda cell led by Barakat Yarkas. German police find Yarkas’s phone number in papers belong to 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. His number is also found in the diary of Hamburg cell member Said Bahaji. (Erlanger and Hedges 12/28/2001; Irujo 2005, pp. 150-153) Investigators also find many videos of sermons by Abu Qatada in the apartment where Atta and other members of the Hamburg cell used to live. Qatada is already closely linked to Yarkas and his Madrid cell (see 1995-February 2001). (Jeffery 8/11/2005) Since Spanish intelligence had been monitoring Yarkas’s call since 1995 (see 1995 and After), it is unknown if they ever monitored a call between Yarkas and Atta or Bahaji. However, no such calls will be mentioned in subsequent trials in Spain. The Spanish did monitor numerous calls between Yarkas and Hamburg associates Mohammed Haydar Zammar and Mamoun Darkazanli (see August 1998-September 11, 2001). For years, the Spanish have merely been monitoring Yarkas’s cell. But after discovering these links, the decision is made to shut the cell down. Yarkas and others are arrested in November 2001 (see November 13, 2001). (Irujo 2005, pp. 162-163) Qatada has been an informant for British intelligence since about 1997; it is unknown if he told his British handlers anything about the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg (see June 1996-February 1997).
On September 24, 2001, the US freezes the accounts of 27 individuals and organizations, alleging that they had channeled money to al-Qaeda (see September 24, 2001). Included in the list is the Mamoun Darkazanli Import Export Company, which may have been used to funnel money to the hijackers (see June 2000-August 2001). US officials say Darkazanli took part in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia (see June 25, 1996). Darkazanli attended Said Bahaji’s wedding in 1999 (see October 9, 1999). (Tagliabue and Bonner 9/29/2001) On October 2, 2001, Darkazanli’s other accounts are also frozen. The US and German governments suspect Darkazanli of providing financial and logistical support to the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. (Agence France-Presse 10/28/2001) Shortly thereafter, Spanish police listening in to Barakat Yarkas’ telephone hear Yarkas warn the leader of a Syrian extremist organization that Darkazanli has caught the “flu” going around. This is believed to be a coded reference meaning that communicating with Darkazanli is not safe (see August 1998-September 11, 2001 and Spring 2000). (Crewdson 11/17/2002)
Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet, later considered one of about three masterminds of the 2004 Madrid train bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004), is already being monitored by Spanish intelligence. On this day, he is photographed with Barakat Yarkas, leader of al-Qaeda’s main cell in Spain. Yarkas will be arrested for an alleged role in the 9/11 attacks less than a month later (see November 13, 2001). (El Mundo (Madrid) 8/16/2005) Fakhet had been under surveillance since 2000. (Irujo 2005, pp. 182-186) He will allegedly blow himself up not long after the bombings (see 9:05 p.m., April 3, 2004). There are allegations that he was an informant at least by 2003 (see Shortly After October 2003). Also seen in the pictures are Yusuf Galan, another member of Yarkas’s cell who will be arrested with Yarkas and later convicted (see September 26, 2005), and Mouhannad Almallah, who has been under surveillance since at least 1998. Almallah will later be sentenced to 12 years in prison for a role in the Madrid bombings (see October 31, 2007). (Lazaro 10/27/2004)
Spanish intelligence has been watching an al-Qaeda cell in Madrid for years, and has been aware since 1995 that cell members are committing a variety of crimes in Spain (see 1995 and After and Late 1995 and After), but none of them have ever been arrested. Finally, after investigators find links between the cell and the 9/11 hijacker cell in Hamburg (see Shortly After September 11, 2001), the decision is made to shut the cell down. On November 13, 2001 Spanish police arrest cell leader Barakat Yarkas, a.k.a., Abu Dahdah, and ten other alleged members of his cell, including Yusuf Galan and Mohamed Needl Acaid. Spanish police, led by judge Baltasar Garzon, appear confident that they smashed the al-Qaeda presence in Spain. However, a number of suspects are left at large who will go on to take part in the 2004 Madrid bombings (see November 13, 2001). (Daly 11/14/2001; McLean 10/26/2004) Yarkas, Galan, Acaid, and others will be convicted for various crimes in 2005 (see September 26, 2005).
On November 13, 2001 Spanish police arrest cell leader Barakat Yarkas and ten other alleged members of his cell. Spanish police, led by judge Baltasar Garzon, appear confident that they have smashed the al-Qaeda presence in Spain (see November 13, 2001). However, a number of likely suspects are left at large:
Moutaz Almallah. Spanish police will later say that he had contacts with Yarkas as far back as 1995, the year police began to monitor Yarkas. He is said to have served as the “political chief” of Yarkas’s cell. He and Yarkas were seen meeting with an al-Qaeda courier in 1998. He will move to London in 2002 to live with radical imam Abu Qatada (see August 2002). He will be arrested in 2005 for a role in the Madrid bombings but has yet to be tried (see August 2002). Curiously, in 1995, a police officer who also served as Garzon’s bodyguard, sold Almallah an apartment and stayed friends with him (see November 1995). (Escriva and Marraco 3/2/2005; BBC 3/24/2005)
Amer el-Azizi, who may have had a role in the 9/11 plot, is able to flee a police raid due to a tip-off from Spanish intelligence (see Shortly After November 21, 2001).
Jamal Zougam, even though he has been under suspicion since 2000, and has been tied to al-Qaeda-linked imam Abu Qatada and Mohammed Fazazi, who preached at the mosque attended by the 9/11 hijackers (see 2000-Early March 2004). (Dillon 11/20/2001; Irujo 2005, pp. 162-164) A French investigator had warned Spanish intelligence in June 2001 that Zougam was an important Islamist militant in a number of countries and that he should be arrested (see June 2001). Zougam’s Madrid apartment was searched by police on August 10, 2001, and investigators found phone numbers of three other members of the cell, plus a video of mujaheddin fighters in Chechnya. (Associated Press 3/17/2004)
Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet. Spanish intelligence began monitoring him in 2000 for his links to other members of the cell. He was photographed with Yarkas in October 2001 (see October 19, 2001). (Irujo 2005, pp. 182-186) Another informant who later appears as a protected witness will claim that Fakhet was also a government informant (see Shortly After October 2003).
Said Chedadi is arrested, but is later released. He had been monitored traveling to London with Yarkas and giving money to Qatada. He will go on to have a role in the Madrid bombings (see 1995-February 2001). He also is roommates with Dris Chebli up until Chebli is arrested in June 2003 (see April-June 2003). (Daly 11/14/2001; Lazaro 10/27/2004)
El-Azizi flees overseas, but allegedly instructs the other cell members not arrested to constitute new cells in Madrid and Morocco. Fakhet becomes a leader of the new cells. Even though the vast majority of those not arrested remain under surveillance, including Fakhet and Zougam (see Shortly Before March 11, 2004), they are able to stage the March 2004 Madrid train bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). Fakhet will blow himself up shortly after those bombings, while Zougam will get life in prison for his role. El-Azizi has yet to be captured. Yarkas and most of the others arrested with him will be convicted for al-Qaeda ties in 2005 and given prison terms (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). (Irujo 2005, pp. 165-174) A Spanish investigator will later call Yarkas the mastermind of the Madrid bombings even though he was in prison since 2001, because virtually all of the bombers were connected to him in some way. “It is very clear to me, that 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 [Yarkas], without any doubt.” (McLean 10/26/2004)
Spanish investigators and prosecutors attempting to jail people they believe are important al-Qaeda operatives seek US assistance, but the US fails to provide them with full co-operation. Spanish authorities started to build a case against a Spain-based al-Qaeda cell headed by Barakat Yarkas in the 1990s and some of the suspects were under surveillance as they allegedly assisted the 9/11 plot (see August 1998-September 11, 2001). The US has some information about them, but does not release what the Spanish need because the US apparently does not want to fight terrorism through law enforcement, but through more direct methods. A Spanish official says, “From the US point of view, everything is an intelligence affair, not a judicial matter… That is what is undermining the whole process.” In 2004, the Spanish official complains: “We could clearly prove the Spanish role in 9/11 if we had real cooperation. There are literally two or three elements missing to close the case, but as it is now, all of the suspects will go free.” One key dispute centers on US unwillingness to share evidence linking Spain-based al-Qaeda operative Amer el-Azizi to the 9/11 plot and Spanish officials spend six months persuading the US before getting a copy of a “specific element that provides a concrete link” between el-Azizi and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (see (November 2001)). In addition, the US fails to provide information identifying Saudi Arabian investors in Spanish construction companies owned by a Syrian businessman, Mohammed Galeb Kalaje Zouaydi, another suspected militant who is thought to have channeled money to extremists through his group of companies, as well as suspicious Islamic charities. (Johnson and Crawford 5/4/2004) This lack of co-operation hinders the prosecutions of the operatives and means they receive only relatively light sentences. For example, Yarkas is initially found guilty of both terrorism in Spain and assisting the 9/11 plot, but his 9/11 conviction is overturned on appeal (see September 26, 2005).
It will later be alleged that in August 2002, radical imam Abu Qatada calls Spanish militant Moutaz Almallah and asks him to live with him in London. Almallah does move to London one month later. For most of 2002, Qatada is supposedly hiding in London, but in fact British intelligence knows where he is (see Late September 2001-Summer 2002 and Summer-Early November 2002), and he has a history of being an British informant (see June 1996-February 1997). The account of Moutaz moving to London comes from the estranged wife of his brother Mouhannad Almallah. Shortly after the Madrid bombings, she will tell a Spanish judge about the call and much more. She will say both brothers had frequent contact with Abu Qatada before moving. Spanish authorities also are aware that the brothers are linked to Barakat Yarkas, who frequently traveled to London to meet with Abu Qatada for many years (see 1995-February 2001). Abu Qatada will be arrested in October 2002, not long after Moutaz moves there (see October 23, 2002), but Moutaz will continue to live in London while making occasional trips back to Spain. Moutaz will be arrested in Britain in 2005. He will be extradited to Spain for a role in the 2004 Madrid train bombings, but will not have been put on trial by July 2007. In 2007, Mouhannad will be sentenced to 12 years for his role in the bombings (see October 31, 2007). (El Mundo (Madrid) 7/28/2005)
German investigators believe they know of nine people who are still living and who played roles in assisting the 9/11 plot, the Chicago Tribune reports. An unnamed senior German intelligence official says he believes these nine cover everyone linked to the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell who helped plan, finance, or carry out the plot. However, he says “there may be people still in Hamburg who had a certain knowledge” of the plot. The nine are:
Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, a Yemeni. He is considered the head of the 9/11 plot in Germany while the hijackers were living in the US. He was captured in Pakistan in 2002 and put in the secret CIA prison system (see September 11, 2002).
Mounir El Motassadeq, a Moroccan. He knew the others in the Hamburg cell and trained in Afghanistan (see May 22 to August 2000). He has been arrested and charged with a role in the 9/11 plot. He will later be convicted (see January 8, 2007).
Abdelghani Mzoudi, a Moroccan. Mzoudi lived with Mohamed Atta and others in the Hamburg cell, and he is alleged to have attended a training camp in Afghanistan in 2000 (see Summer 2000). He has been arrested in Germany and charged with a role in the 9/11 attacks. He will later be acquitted after the US fails to cooperate with German prosecutors (see February 5, 2004-June 8, 2005).
Barakat Yarkas, a Spaniard. He is alleged to be the leader of al-Qaeda in Spain. Germans believe he helped arrange a meeting between Atta and bin al-Shibh in Spain two months before 9/11 (see July 8-19, 2001). He is imprisoned in Spain on various terrorism charges. He will later be convicted to 12 years in prison, but not for any role in 9/11 (see September 26, 2005).
Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a Moroccan. He was investigated for al-Qaeda ties for years prior to 9/11. He was captured in Morocco after 9/11 and renditioned to a prison in Syria (see December 2001).
Said Bahaji, a German. He is said to be a computer expert who taught Atta and others how to use computers to communicate. He fled Germany just before 9/11 (see September 3-5, 2001). There is a warrant for his arrest (see September 21, 2001), but he remains free.
Zakariya Essabar, a Moroccan. He lived with Atta, Bahaji, and others. He trained in Afghanistan and attempted to get a US visa (see January-October 2000). He fled Germany just before 9/11 (see Late August 2001). There is a warrant for his arrest (see October 19, 2001), but he remains free overseas.
Mamoun Darkazanli, a Syrian. He had been investigated for al-Qaeda ties for years before 9/11 (see 1993), and he knew Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and other members of the Hamburg cell (see October 9, 1999). He remains free in Germany (see November 11, 2010).
Abdul-Matin Tatari, a Syrian. He runs a textile company called Tatex Trading that investigators suspect helped get money and visas for al-Qaeda operatives (see September 10, 2002-June 2003). He was questioned on September 10, 2002, but he remains free in Germany. (Crewdson 10/22/2002)
More than Just Nine - But a few months later, the Chicago Tribune will report that investigators believe there are many more members of the Hamburg cell than was previously reported (see February 25, 2003). For instance, one likely participant who will only become publicly known many years later is Naamen Meziche. He was friends with Atta and others in the Hamburg cell, and he will be killed by a US drone strike in Pakistan in 2010 (see October 5, 2010).
Beginning on January 17, 2003, Spanish police begin monitoring an apartment on Virgen de Coro street in Madrid owned by the brothers Moutaz and Mouhannad Almallah. Moutaz owns it but lives in London, so Mouhannad is the landlord and works there every day as well. Police were tipped off about the house earlier in the month by Mouhannad’s estranged wife. She revealed that a group of Islamist militants are regularly meeting there (see January 4, 2003). (Lazaro and Rubio 8/10/2005) Both Almallah brothers ties to known al-Qaeda figures such as Barakat Yarkas and radical imam Abu Qatada, and Moutaz moved to London in August 2002 to live with Qatada (see August 2002). In 2007, an unnamed Spanish police officer testifying in the Madrid bombings trial will give details about the surveillance of the apartment. He will call it an important place for both meetings and recruitment. The police note that both brothers travel frequently to and from London and also regularly call London. These calls are usually followed by calls to the Middle East or North Africa. Police are aware that Moutaz has no job in London and is in the circle of people around Abu Qatada (although Abu Qatada himself was arrested in late 2002 see (see October 23, 2002)). Basel Ghalyoun and Fouad el Morabit live at the apartment and frequently meet there with Mouhannad Almallah and Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet. (El Mundo (Madrid) 3/21/2007) Ghalyoun will later admit that in early 2003, Fakhet began to “talk of carrying out an attack in Spain, making jihad…” He will say that others attending jihad meetings at the apartment in 2003 include Arish Rifaat and Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed. (Rubio 10/15/2005) Mohammed Larbi ben Sellam is also frequently seen there. (Lazaro 9/28/2004) The surveillance intensifies in subsequent months, and soon the apartment is monitored with video as well (see Spring 2003 and After). Police will keep watching the apartment until arrests are made after the March 2004 Madrid train bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). Rifaat, Fakret, and others will allegedly blow themselves up shortly after the Madrid bombings (see 9:05 p.m., April 3, 2004). There are allegations Fakret was an informant (see Shortly After October 2003). Mouhannad Almallah, Ghalyoun, ben Sellam, and el Morabit will be convicted in 2007 and each sentenced to 12 years for roles in the bombings (see October 31, 2007). Ahmed will be convicted of different charges in Italy (see October 31, 2007). Curiously, when the apartment is raided shortly after the Madrid bombings, two documents belonging to police officer Ayman Maussili Kalaji will be found inside. Kalaji will admit to having a friendship with Moutaz Almallah dating back at least to 1995 (see May 16, 2005).
Jamal Zougam, an Islamist militant living in Spain, calls Barakat Yarkas, the head of the al-Qaeda cell in Madrid. Yarkas is in prison at the time, and has been there since November 2001 for an alleged role in the 9/11 attacks (see November 13, 2001). Zougam’s call is monitored, and in fact he has been monitored since 2000 for his links to Yarkas and others (see 2000-Early March 2004). Zougam will later say that he was aware he was being monitored, especially since he knew his house was raided in 2001. The Madrid newspaper El Mundo will later comment that the call makes no sense, especially since it takes place just six days before the Madrid train bombings (see October 31, 2007): “It’s like lighting a luminous sign.” It also has not been explained why the imprisoned Yarkas was even allowed to speak to Zougam on the phone. It is not known what they discuss. (Mugica 4/23/2004) Zougam will later be sentenced to life in prison for a role in the Madrid bombings (see October 31, 2007).
The Madrid newspaper El Mundo reveals some curious details about Spanish police officer Ayman Maussili Kalaji and the 2004 Madrid bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004):
Born in Syria, Kalaji belonged to the militant group Al Fatah and was also a Soviet intelligence agent. He moved to Spain in the early 1980s as a political refugee and eventually became a citizen and joined the national police by the late 1980s. He rose through the ranks and at some point he was the bodyguard to Baltasar Garzon, the Spanish judge presiding over trials of al-Qaeda-linked militants in Spain such as Barakat Yarkas.
In 1995, Kalaji sold an apartment to Moutaz Almallah. Almallah is considered a key link between the bombing cell and al-Qaeda operatives overseas. His apartment is said to be a nerve center for the plot. Kalaji admits to being in close contact with Almallah.
When a different apartment owned by Almallah was raided after the Madrid bombing, two documents were found with Kalaji’s name on it. One referenced the 1995 purchase, and the second was from 2001. This apartment, on Virgen de Coro street in Madrid, was a key hub of the Madrid bombers and was under surveillance for a full year leading up to the bombings (see January 17, 2003-Late March 2004).
Kalaji is also said to have been on friendly terms with Barakat Yarkas, the leader of the al-Qaeda cell in Madrid until his arrest in November 2001. Kalaji played a role in the arrest.
In 2001, Kalaji was investigated for credit card fraud.
For many years, Kalaji’s sister Lina Kalaji was in charge of translating the monitored telephone calls from Islamist cells in Spain. In 2002, she translated the intercepts of Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet, considered one of the bombing masterminds (see 2002).
His ex-wife Marisol Kalaji is also a police officer and was the first on the scene to a van discovered the day of the bombings containing a cassette tape of the Koran. This is what first led investigators to believe the bombing was the work of Islamist and not Basque militants (see 10:50 a.m.-Afternoon, March 11, 2004).
He owns a cell phone store. The phones used to trigger the bombs were bought in a different store, but in Kalaji’s store the phones’ internal codes were reset so they could be used by other phone services.
He is said to go on leave not long after the bombings, due to all his curious connections. He also gives a statement to investigators regarding his role in changing the phone codes, but he is not charged for any crime. (El Mundo (Madrid) 5/17/2005; Gaffney 5/18/2005; El Mundo (Madrid) 5/20/2005; Mugica 8/22/2005) For days after El Mundo publishes its first story about Kalaji, a Spanish police commissioner will officially request Kalaji be arrested, but apparently he never is (see May 20, 2005). In August 2005, El Mundo will conclude that “it is becoming increasingly evident” that Kalaji played a “leading role” in the Madrid bombings. (Mugica 8/22/2005) Almallah will be arrested in Britain in 2005 and extradited to stand trial in Spain in 2007 (see March 18-19, 2005). (London Times 3/9/2007)
A Spanish court sentences a number of people to prison for connections to al-Qaeda. The main defendant, Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, is convicted of leading an al-Qaeda cell in Madrid and conspiring to commit the 9/11 attacks by hosting a meeting in Spain in July 2001 attended by Mohamed Atta, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and others (see July 8-19, 2001). He is sentenced to 27 years in prison. (McLean 9/27/2005) However, in 2006, Spain’s supreme court will overturn his 9/11 conspiracy conviction, after prosecutors reverse themselves and ask that the conviction be dismissed. One of the reasons for the dismissal is that the US, which possesses evidence supporting the convictions, is reluctant to provide it (see Mid-2002-June 1, 2006). This will leave Zacarias Moussaoui the only person in the world jailed for a role in the 9/11 attacks. Yarkas will still have to serve a 12-year sentence for leading an al-Qaeda cell. (Naughton 6/1/2006) Seventeen men besides Yarkas, mostly Syrians, are also found guilty and are given sentences of six to eleven years. One of these is Tayseer Allouni, a correspondent for the Al Jazeera satellite network. He is convicted of giving $4,500 to a family of Syrian exiles in Afghanistan. The prosecutor alleged the family were al-Qaeda operatives, while Allouni argued he gave the money for humanitarian reasons. Two others, a Moroccan named Driss Chebli and a Syrian named Ghasoub al-Abrash Ghalyoun, were acquitted of being involved in the 9/11 plot, but Chebli was convicted of collaborating with a terrorist group. Ghalyoun was accused of videotaping the World Trade Center and other American landmarks in 1997 for the 9/11 plotters, but he claimed he was just a tourist (see 1998). (McLean 9/27/2005; Green 9/27/2005; Crawford 9/27/2005)
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