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Madrid charge for 9/11 suspect

By CNN Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman

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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- A Moroccan-born man on trial in Spain on charges of helping plan the September 11, 2001 attacks has been charged with a role in the Madrid train bombings, a National Court official has told CNN.

The suspect, Driss Chebli, 33, was charged with collaborating with an Islamic terrorist group in the train bombings that killed 191 people on March 11, 2004.

Judge Juan del Olmo, the magistrate leading the investigation into the train bombings, has also charged 10 other suspects in that attack since last month, the court official announced Thursday.

That makes a new total of 101 suspects now charged in the train bombings, but only 25 of them are in jail. The rest, generally charged with lesser offenses such as collaboration with a terrorist group, are free on conditional liberty.

The train bombing charge against Chebli comes as Spanish investigators search for links between that attack -- blamed on Islamic terrorists -- and a group of 24 al Qaeda suspects, including Chebli, who went on trial April 22 in Madrid.

Among those 24 suspects, only three -- including Chebli -- are charged with helping plan the September 11 attacks. The three each face more than 62,000 years in prison if convicted -- the maximum sentences for the murders of each victim in the 9/11 attacks.

Also among the three is Chebli's alleged former boss, Syrian-born Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, the suspected al Qaeda leader in Spain.

Prosecutors charge that Yarkas and Chebli helped arrange a meeting in July 2001 in Spain for Mohammed Atta, the pilot of the first plane to strike the World Trade Center on 9/11, and Ramzi Binalshibh, an alleged key 9/11 plotter who has been in U.S. custody since 2002.

Yarkas and Chebli deny the charges.

A senior Spanish police officer has linked Yarkas to the train bombings. In testimony last October to the parliamentary commission investigating the bombings, the officer, Rafael Gomez Menor, said he considered Yarkas to be the ideological mastermind of the Madrid attacks because he recruited and prepared other suspects to commit acts of terrorism.

Yarkas, who has been in Spanish jail since November 2001, has not been charged in the train bombing case.

Nine of the 11 latest suspects in the train bombing case were charged with collaboration with a terrorist group. In addition to Chebli, they include Mohamed El Ouazzani, a Moroccan-born man. Ouazzani was arrested last December in Spain on suspicion of involvement in a failed plot to send a truck bomb against the National Court headquarters in Madrid, which handles cases of terrorism.

Other suspects with new charges in the train bombings were identified as Daniel Fernandez Fernandez, Mohamed Mohamed Ali, Mouad Benkhalafa, Said Tlidni, Jose Angel Moran Suarez, Manuel Javier Gonzalez Garcia and Sanel Sjekirka.

The court did not identify two of the 11 suspects or what charges they face. The court official said the investigation against those two was continuing.


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