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33 charged in failed Spain bombing

From CNN Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman


Acts of terror
Crime, Law and Justice

MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- A Spanish judge has indicted 33 suspected Islamic extremists in a failed plot to attack the National Court in Madrid, which tries terrorism cases, with a truck bomb, according to a copy of the court order viewed by CNN.

The indictments were issued March 13, according to the court order, but were only made public Tuesday, coinciding with the judge's in-person notification, at the courthouse, of eight of the 32 suspects.

The rest will be formally notified of the indictments later this week, a court spokeswoman told CNN.

The plot aimed to pack a truck with 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) of explosives and ram it into the National Court building, where nearly a thousand people work daily, including judges, prosecutors, lawyers and police officers, according to the 23-page indictment.

Judge Fernando Grande-Marlaska, of the National Court, indicted the 33 suspects on charges of "belonging to a terrorist group," "conspiracy to commit a terrorist attack with resulting deaths," and document forgery, the indictment said.

Many of the suspects were arrested in late 2004. They are from seven countries: 22 from Algeria, five from Morocco, two from Spain and one each from Mauritania, Lebanon, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories. But court said three of the Algerian suspects indicted are at large, their whereabouts unknown.

Another suspect in the case, a Moroccan, died last year. He was not indicted.

The court said the suspected leader of the terrorist cell is a 32-year-old Moroccan, Abderrahmane Tahiri, better known by the alias Mohamed Achraf. He was extradited from Switzerland to Spain last April.

Achraf in late 2001 began forming a terrorist cell to find suicide bombers willing to carry out an attack against the National Court as part of a "holy war." The group was based on the radical Salafist movement, the indictment said, and the group called itself "Martyrs for Morocco."

The court said that Achraf and eight other suspects indicated they were ready to serve as suicide bombers in the planned attack on the National Court.

Achraf aimed to obtain 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) of explosives -- half of it for the National Court attack -- in part with the help of a Spanish gypsy involved in weapons and explosives trafficking. He was called Antonio but has not otherwise been identified, the court said.

Security has since been increased at the court, with thick metal barriers limiting vehicle traffic close to the building, which occupies the corner of a major street and its tiny side-street intersection.

Achraf's recruitment included finding potential cell members who were already in Spanish prisons, on other charges, and who would met by Achraf or his lieutenants upon leaving jail, the indictment said.

One of the indicted suspects, Abdelkrim Besmail, 43, of Algeria, was in jail serving time for being a member of the Algerian Armed Islamic Group. The same group had included, earlier in Spain, another Algerian, Alekema Lamari, who was released early from prison and went on to become a prime suspect in the Madrid train bombings on March 11, 2004, that killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,700.

Lamari was among seven leading suspects in the train bombings who blew themselves up, three weeks after the bombings, as police closed in on their hideout in a Madrid suburb.

At least one other suspect under indictment in the latest case also was linked to Lamari and had provided clandestine lodging in mid-2003 to Lamari when he was wanted on an arrest warrant.

A key aide to Achraf in the cell was Dibali Abdellah, 31, of Algeria, whose alias was Addila Mimon.

Police seized documents from him indicating that other possible targets for attacks were: Madrid's tallest building, the Torre Picasso; the Real Madrid football stadium, which is across the street from the Torre Picasso; the headquarters of the conservative Popular Party, which is just up the street from the National Court; a major convention hall, and two railway stations -- Atocha, which was one of three stations struck in the Madrid train bombings -- and the Principie Pio stadium, the indictment said.

At least one of the suspects indicted also maintained contact with prisoners in the United States, Mohamed Salameh Mahmud Abouhalima and Widal Ayyad, who were serving time for involvement in the World Trade Center attacks in New York. The aim was to extol the "holy war" and to aid in ideological training for terrorist activity, the indictment said.

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