First Terrorist Bomb-Belts Reach Europe
DEBKAfile Special Report
4 April 2004
Serhane ben Abdelmajid Farkhet, 35, alias The Tunisian, suspected ringleader of the Madrid train bombings, was one of the terrorists who blew themselves up Saturday night in the southwestern Madrid suburb of Leganes when Spanish police closed in on their hideout. Spanish interior minister Angel Acebes said it is impossible to establish how many al Qaeda suspects were holed up in the building. They began shooting from a window at police approaching the apartment building. Special police agents prepared to storm the building when the terrorists set off a powerful explosion with several bomb belts shouting God is great in Arabic. One policeman was killed and 15 injured. Some of the suspects may have escaped under cover of the blast or before the police closed the net around the building.
Also found in the damaged apartment building were additional explosive devices and 200 detonators.
Forty apartments were evacuated and the area sealed off. Three of the terror suspects who committed suicide have been identified, but the possibility of more having taken part in the group suicide has not been ruled out. Spanish radio reported Jamal Ahmidan, 33, was among the dead. He was named in one of the six arrest warrants issued in the March 11 train bombings investigation.
This was the first time terrorists are known to have used bomb belts in Europe, also the first battle with al Qaeda to take place on the continent.
Spanish police are already holding 15 suspects in connection with the attack on the commuter trains last month. Six have been charged with mass murder and nine with collaborating with a terrorist organization. Eleven are members of the al Qaeda-linked Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group.
Friday, April 2, Spain went on terror alert after a bomb was found on the Madrid-Seville
high speed rail track near Toledo 10 km south of capital. The device was connected
to a detonator with a 130 m cable. The Spanish army and helicopters are now
guarding Spanish railway lines.