That's how that commando ended

It is Monday December 11 and La Vanguardia has arranged an appointment with Samira Zougam, the sister of Jamal, the main convict for the 11-M attacks in Madrid.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
10 March 2024 Sunday 11:31
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That's how that commando ended

It is Monday December 11 and La Vanguardia has arranged an appointment with Samira Zougam, the sister of Jamal, the main convict for the 11-M attacks in Madrid. Samira enters with her mother, Aixa Atxab, in a cafe in the Ciudad Lineal district of Madrid. Very soon he warns that this is "not an interview", just an exploratory contact. La Vanguardia expresses its interest in interviewing Khamal in prison, for a report on those who were involved in the plot. For this reason, and according to prison regulations, it must be the inmate who asks the prison management to be interviewed. Zougam was sentenced in 2007 to 42,917 years in prison and is expected to serve the maximum time of 40 years. Until 2044. He was arrested on March 13, 2004. But the two women would only intercede before the prisoner, they allege, if it were for La Vanguardia to proclaim his innocence. So Samira and Aixa, without this commitment, get up and play the two.


Twenty years proclaiming his innocence

For twenty years, Zougam (and his family) have sworn that he is innocent. He was the only one convicted as a material author of the massacre, 192 deaths. The Madrid commando – with Khamal already under preventive arrest – killed a National Police officer the following April 3, when seven terrorists were besieged in an apartment in Leganés and immolated themselves there. Khamal was recognized by three train passengers (two women and a third unrelated to them) as the young man who left a bag on a train.

Apart from recognition, the court considered other elements: his connection with the suicides and with the majority of those prosecuted; that neither his mother nor his brother claimed that on 11-M Khamal was at home between 6:30 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. and that they only asserted that he was there at 9:45 a.m.; that the SIM cards used to activate the bombs were sold in his shop, and that in a dialogue recorded by Belgian police in April 2004 between two jihadists, one tells the other that he is a friend of Zougam, "the one who carried out the attacks last month".

Zougam alleges that the recognition of the two women is not real and is due to their interest in getting papers (they were Romanian) and compensation as victims. One of them (protected witness C-65) recognized Khamal from the start, but the other (J-70) took eleven months to do so, and did so only when she discovered that if she accused Khamal would get those benefits. He collected 51,900 euros. Khamal's complaint, brought by lawyers Eduardo García Peña and Francisco Andújar, ended up being filed.

There was another witness, R-10, who recognized Zougam three times. He did not testify at trial, but his testimony was incorporated by reading. In an interview with La Vanguardia published on the 4th, the 11-M judge, Javier Gómez Bermúdez, states that the recognition was "very solid".

At the trial, Zougam's defense, carried out by the lawyer José Luis Abascal, tried to alter the story and point to ETA; in the ruling, the court crushed their guesses by presenting nine reports or witnesses that eliminated all traces of the gang.

Zougam had little luck in later court stages. The lawyer Iván Jiménez Aybar, to whom the family entrusted their appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, "presented it outside the deadline", explains a source close to the family. It wasn't even reviewed. The lawyer declined to explain what happened. Today, the case does not go to court, but Zougam has changed his lawyer again. Now it's Manuel Ortega Caballero. La Vanguardia arranged an interview with him in Madrid on December 20, but he did not appear. All subsequent attempts at contact were futile.


Almost all those sentenced to prison terms have already been released

In addition to Zougam, there are two more prisoners from 11-M in Spain. One is the former Asturian miner José Emilio Suárez Trashorras, who supplied the terrorists with rubber-2, and who has just requested euthanasia, in view of the lack of treatment for his mental health, he alleges.

The third is Othman el-Gnaoui, taken in Leon, who holds the record for the sentence imposed in Spain: 42,922 years, as a necessary cooperator in 191 murders, almost 2,000 more in the degree of attempt, destruction, belonging to an armed band and others

Abdelilah Hriz is serving a sentence in Morocco. His DNA appeared in Morata de Tajuña's house (where they set up the bombs) and also in Leganés' flat.


Bouixar runs again

15 of the 18 convicted by the National Court in 2007 have already served their sentences. The last ones were Raixid Aglif, sentenced to 18 years; Muhammad Bouharrat, 12 years for belonging to an armed band, and in August the last, Abdelmajid Bouixar. All those released from prison of Moroccan nationality were directly expelled to their country, and are prohibited from returning to Spain for ten years, according to sources from the General Information Office.

Bouixar was sentenced to 18 years. A witness believed he had seen it on the trains, but it was never tested. Bouixar is the man who went down on April 3 to throw away the rubbish from the commando's flat. He spotted the police (he had located them by a SIM card), alerted them and ran away. His nickname was because he was a great cross-country skier. They could not arrest him until 2005, in Serbia. At the 11-M trial he even denied being in the flat, even though he was just taking out the rubbish, and inside there was a date stone on which his DNA was found. It is assumed that he fled through the structure that the jihadists had in Santa Coloma de Gramenet, in a flat they called Al-Kalaa, the fortress.


Is the man alive who could perhaps explain everything?

Al-Kalaa was the escape route for some of the 11-M terrorists. At least it was used by fellow plot members Muhammad Afalah, Daoud Ouhnane and Said Berraj. The first two died fighting against the Americans in Iraq; Ouhnane in a shootout near Baghdad. Berraj was a key piece of Al-Qaida in Spain. live? The only reference to his subsequent destination was offered in 2009, at the trial of Operation Tigris, by the defendant Khamal Ahbar. He assures that Berraj also died in Iraq. But for police purposes "he is alive", because there is no biological evidence of his death, a senior source in the anti-jihadist struggle explains to La Vanguardia.

Certainly, Berraj knew a great deal about both the preparation of the attacks and the plots of Al-Qaida in Spain. This Moroccan had been arrested in Istanbul in 2000, allegedly on his way to Afghanistan. He was there, among others, with Amer Azizi (the link of Al-Qaida on 11-M). Both avoided arrests in 2001 in the Dátil operation and in some way, according to the theses of the expert in jihadism of the Royal Institute Elcano Fernando Reinares, gave continuity to the cell that helped Spain in the preparations of the American 11-S with those of the Madrid 11-M.

Azizi got his role from abroad, perhaps from Pakistan. He died there in 2005, Al-Qaida confirmed in 2010, with an obituary that included a photograph and several allusions to Isabel the Catholic. Aziziva to be betrayed, apparently, by a confidant who allowed the CIA to launch a missile at them.

And Berraj? At the end of 2002 Spain had asked Turkey for information to arrest him. The documentation reached judge Baltasar Garzón on March 10. The police searched his house in Madrid, but found it empty. There he found a kind of testament, as El Confidencial published, in which Berraj said: "I swear to you by God that I have had enough of this miserable life. How can you live and enjoy knowing that the enemies of Islam are gathering to fight against the Muslims...” He worked as a courier.

Berraj went to Malaga on March 8 to leave his wife, Hanane Xontouf, with his in-laws. It is assumed that he returned to Madrid to participate in the killing, given the telephone traffic, which places him in Morata de Tajuña, where the bombs were assembled, and because he intervened in the rental of a third commando estate, in Albolote (Granada), from where they are supposed to have followed their criminal route.

It was later found that the mobile phone used by his wife was 12 numbers away from that of Mohamed Belhadj, in whose name the apartment in Leganés was rented.

On March 23, as Berraj's brother-in-law explained when he was arrested days later (and released without charge), he traveled with Hanane from Malaga to Barcelona; a brother of Hanane worked in a restaurant in Alt Empordà, which he did not want to tell La Vanguardia if he is still there.

A brother-in-law of Berraj, arrested by the police (he was also released), testified on April 4, 2004 that he had asked him for money, apparently, to send Hanane to Morocco. In a call to his brother Ahmed, who lives in Belgium, Said promised him that he would turn himself in. He never did.

The point is that Berraj used Al-Kalaa to flee to Iraq. He went out with Afalah, Ouhnane and a third person, whose identity is unknown. Did he die with them? Officially or police-wise he is alive. If that were the case, he would be the only one who could explain everything about the 11-M attacks.