I am emphasising and emphasising, and emphasising over again: following what has been happening in Spain is important to understand *one* of the evolution pathways of radical Islam in Europe. Unfortunately most of the relevant material is in Spanish. Googling I found this. I cannot vouch for the source, but the information contained in the article conforms with my general understanding. One or two extra points:

I had missed the fact Castells appeared before the 11M commission. I think it important that network theorists are involved in strategic thinking. I think the idea that there are simply a fixed quantity of terrorists to be eliminated is absurd, and those who argue this kind of view probably commit themselves to something like the ‘lump of labour‘ fallacy.

Secondly illegal immigration is a really important issue. This phenomenon probably explains this sentence in the link: “The apparent ease with which foreign jihadists motivated Spanish Muslims to radicalize their religious beliefs and recruit them for suicide operations in Iraq illustrates a demographic and ideological shift among Spanish Muslims”.

Following this up, illegal immigration is the perfect cover for such activities as those who are in this situation have almost minimal contact with the value system of the ‘host’ society, and may experience many of its less desireable features. The Italian authorities seem to be taking this possibility seriously.

This entry was posted in A Fistful Of Euros, Terrorism and tagged , by Edward Hugh. Bookmark the permalink.

About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

16 thoughts on “Facts

  1. ” On-going counter-terrorism investigations reveal that Salafist Islamists traveled to Spain in the late 1990s to early 2000s to organize a network of cells for recruiting suicide bombers for operations in Iraq, Bosnia, and elsewhere…”

    That seems strange. I’m not aware of suicide bombing operations in Bosnia at all, and I’m not aware of suicide bombings in Iraq prior to the invasion.

  2. “That seems strange.”

    Yes, I agree. I don’t understand the reference to Bosnia at all, although it probably fits in somewhere. And the late 90’s is not relevant to Iraq. This would be a relatively recent evolution of their activity. The late 90’s would relate to the preparation for 09/11, part of which clearly took place in Spain, and hence Mohammed Atah’s visit. I think I would put the Bosnian suicide bombers issue down to poor sentence construction. For the most part the facts are taken directly from the Spanish 11M commission.

    This expression – “particularly al-Zarqawi?s anti-Coalition attacks in Iraq” – also irritates, since again this is a recent development, which certainly won’t predate the war.

    However the substantive claim seems to be that:

    “Abu Dahdah?s cell was involved in recruiting mujahideen to fight in Bosnia, Chechnya, Afghanistan, and Iraq”. and this comes, according to the quote, direct from the Commission.

    Equally surprising to me at least is this:

    “Another member of Dahdah?s Spanish cell and his associate, Yusuf Galan, also traveled to the Indonesian al-Qaeda camp for military training.”

    This again comes from the Commission, but indicates a large global circulation of people.

    “In mid-June, Spanish authorities conducted ?Operacion Tigris,? arresting sixteen Islamists in Madrid, Cataluna, Valencia, and Cadiz because of their alleged ties to Islamic terrorism: 11 are allegedly linked to al-Qaeda in Iraq headed by al-Zarqawi. [12]”

    I blogged this, here:


    It was really these arrests – the so-called operation Tigris – that made me aware of just how extensive all this seemed to be.

    And look at this:

    “The cell?s headquarters was in Syria, from where the two senior recruiters and financiers ? Muhsin Khaybar, alias Abdelmajid Al Libi or Abdelmajid Al Yasser, and Abdel Hay Assas, alias Abdalla ? managed the activities in Spain”.

    Again very extensive reach, and very difficult to break down.

  3. I haven’t seen much discussion of Frank Gaffney’s interesting NRO article on 3/11, which appeared a couple of months ago. An excerpt:

    But what if the perpetrators were neither Islamofascists, as the winning socialists immediately asserted, nor the Basque terrorist organization known as ETA, as the government of Jos? Maria Aznar initially (and fatally) assumed?

    On May 16, the Madrid daily El Mundo published a remarkable editorial that draws upon the paper?s ongoing investigation and contains information potentially as explosive as the 3/11 attacks themselves: El Mundo suggests that, almost immediately after the 12 bombs went off in one of the city?s busiest train stations, some in the Spanish police force fabricated evidence, then swiftly hyped it to the domestic and international press. The object seems to have been to support the oppositions? claims that Islamists angry over the government?s support for the war in Iraq were responsible for the attacks.

    At worst, the information uncovered by El Mundo could mean that the deadly bombing was actually perpetrated with the complicity of the same Spanish police bomb squad, Tedax, that was subsequently charged with investigating the crime.


  4. “I haven’t seen much discussion of Frank Gaffney’s”

    You haven’t seen much discussion of it David, since it is plainly bollocks (if you will excuse the expression). The events surrounding 03/11 were investigated in depth by the Commission, and I have full confidence in the broad substance of their findings.

    As with the suggestion that 09/11 was the work of neocons, or that 07/07 was ‘staged’, you will always find some nut who will invent a crazy story to avoid accepting the obvious. I mean arguing that Al-qaeda may not be Al-qaeda but may be ‘x’ or ‘x’,’y’,’z’… is one thing, but denying that there is a thing called Islamic terrorism, and denying that there is a major issue here, isn’t this almost tantamount to a modern version of the holocaust denial.

    Do you read El Mundo? Do you know the kind of things these cranks argue? Do you know they publish readers letters which complain about the Catalan ‘jews’. The people behind El Mundo IMHO are pushing their own agenda. They fell out seriously with the Spanish security agencies when these broke ranks and refused to back the ‘official version’, ie that it was eta. This, in itself, is something exceptional and totally commendable.

    As to the idea that El Mundo is conducting its own investigation, it’s just laughable.

  5. Since like Clouseau I try to be meticulous when I can, I went and had a look at the article. Most of the argumentation is based on evidence from a blogger, Franco Aleman, who is hardly a neutral type. Here is an example of the reasoning:

    “The claim that the Aznar government wrongly ? and for political reasons ? initially blamed ETA for the attacks rests on two propositions derived from Backpack 13?s contents: The nature of the explosive and evidence associated with its cellphone trigger.”

    Wrong. The claim that the Aznar government wrongly initially blamed ETA is based on the fact that at circa 11:00 am on 11 March 2004 Aznar appeared at a press conference and he blamed eta (I saw him). Subsequently (and curiously) he never repeated this publicly in this way. His lieutenant Angel Acebes was given the job of continuing to do so untli late Saturday evening (13 March). That indicating eta was an error is proven by what happened in London on Thursday. Look at the modus op. You don’t need to go into parafinalia like explosives and triggers, the proof is before your eyes, unless of course El Mundo’s paranoia extends to the idea that the Spanish security services were busy in London covering there trail.

    All the rest of the arguing is simply political.

  6. Incidentally David, I hope you don’t feel I jumped down your throat here, but honestly I think if we put our time into dealing with every crackpot conspiracy theory we will get nowhere. I have looked at your blog, can see you are not a w***nut, and understand your concerns with what may be happening in Russia. I happen to share them.

    Incidentally, one of the details in F-A’s case is the idea that ‘professional’ terrorists are unlikely to make amateur mistakes. False. Look at US security ops from time to time. Anyone can do it under pressure. We don’t even really know how ‘professional’ many of these people actually were. Since they blew themselves up (which should indicate something) we probably never will. But look, if you wish, at the bus bomb mystery in London. What happened there? Is it intentional, or a cock-up? Either version is plausible at this moment in time. We will have to wait and see. I think the important thing in orienting yourself in all this is to be pragmatic, have confidence in the security services of democratic states until there are reasons to doubt them, believe your governments (but not incredulously so) when there is no reason not to (rather than the other way round) but be vigilant, and be prepared to change your mind under the weight of evidence.

    I say this as someone who has accepted initially Aznar’s suggestion that eta was responsible for the Madrid bombing:


    and subsequent, where I soon change my mind, and who accepted from Blair that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. My advice: avoid the conspiracy theories, but always keep an open mind in the background.

  7. I don’t know Edward – I’m prepared to have an open mind about the WoT, and if someone comes along with a new theory about who the culprits may be, I’m willing to consider it – even if, as you say, it turns out be bollocks.

    Frank Gaffney is one of those who have spoken out most strongly on behalf of Israel, and was also Ronald Reagan’s Assistant Secretary of Defence. I wouldn’t dismiss an article by him without careful consideration.

    I often get the sense that no one really knows who is responsible for the international bombing campaign that’s currently underway.

    And, for example, the situation as regards Chechen-attributed violence and bombing in the Russian Federation is distinctly murky, and growing murkier with each day that passes.

  8. >>I hope you don’t feel I jumped down your throat here

    Not at all. But I think it helps if everyone tries to be as dispassionate as possible in the debating of this difficult and problematic issue. Hard though it may often be, I concede.

  9. @ David:

    “I wouldn’t dismiss an article by him without careful consideration.”

    The thing is David he, I presume, is in the US, and I am in Spain. I think if he is as big a name as you suggest he should have better sources for an argument than a blogger and El Mundo. I have been following what happened here closely, I listened to a lot of the live Commission hearings. People are really not pushing a political agenda about who was responsible, and apart from a few nuts there is no doubt. Of course there are always ‘dark areas’.

    The political debate is really over whether the PSOE tried to take advantage of the PP embarassment. This is a comparatively small issue, and not one which would lead Spain’s security services to put the lives of many of their citizens at risk.

    Russsia, btw, is IMHO not a democracy, so what I say about democracis doesn’t apply. Russia is in long term demographic decline, and can only, unfortunately, become decadent.

    On Chechenia, I’m just reading this:


    which is about the rise of Salafi Islam in Azerbaijan. It contains the following:

    “The second wave of Salafi expansion started in 1999, with the beginning of the Second Russo-Chechen war. The Russian military command tried to push Chechen rebels ? particularly those of a Salafi orientation ? out of the northern Caucasus into neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan. Thus, some of the 8,000 Chechen refugees that arrived in Azerbaijan in 1999-2000 were persecuted Chechen Salafis.”

    Whatever the ins-and-outs of the violence in Chechnia this implies one very direct consequence, a potential extension of radicalism into Georgia and Azerbaijan. I think people somewhere up on high need to think long and hard about the implications of this kind of thing.

    “if everyone tries to be as dispassionate as possible”

    I agree, but with British police unable yet to allow any of the relatives in to identify bodies due to their horrifying condition, you’ll forgive me if I am not at my most dispassionate right now, especially with conspiracy theories which I normally can’t stand. You are, I imagine from the US. Try and remember how you felt when those stories started appearing in the European press about who had and who hadn’t been evacuated from the towers *before* the attack. I imagine it was hard to be dispassionate. Well you can imagine that a European might get a little hot under the collar about what could be considered the reverse story. 192 people die, and someone – without any real back-up – argues they may have killed by their own security people. And really just to push some minor political point.

    In conclusion back to:

    “I wouldn’t dismiss an article by him without careful consideration.”

    Well,I think,as I’ve indicated that if *he* would like others to give more consideration to what he is saying then he needs to brush up on his reasoning a bit.

  10. @ Scott

    I’m still following up on the Bosnia think. I think the only really mix-up is about suicide bombers in that sentence. It needs re-writing.

    What I have found is this:

    “The first regional group that sprang from under the patronage of original Arab mujahideen fighters, the so-called Afghan Arabs, was associated with the fighting in Bosnia. Numerical estimates by the BND put the original group at approximately 30,000 operatives, with the second generation numbering slightly less at 20,000. Here it should be noted that the majority of terrorist arrests made on the territory of the European Union since 9/11 have involved individuals in their 30s, most of the suspects having combat experience from the Balkans, and Bosnia in particular.”

    The BND are the German security services. The correct version would be that the jihadis in Spain in the mid 90’s were recruiting people for Bosnia. This has been called the ‘second generation’.


  11. >>You are, I imagine from the US.

    I’m from the U.K., am British, and I live in London – have done for the past 24 years.

    I’m interested to read your arguments on WoT issues, especially as they affect Spain. But I’m also interested to read the arguments of others.

    I agree that the current situation in London is very troubling, and one’s heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones and relatives in the blasts.

    But I’ve spent most of today in central London, as I usually do on Saturdays (there are classes I attend there), and I was struck by how normal the place seemed.

    I think that, mainly, people here are just bewildered by what has happened.

    And we need to be seeking the truth about that – everywhere, not just where it suits us to look, or where we think it ought to be found.

    Sorry to be so blunt.

  12. A plea. We’re already stepping into unthinking use of ‘7/7′ (London newspapers are guilty of htis as well).
    It’s as if there is an inevitable progression of key dates, and we’re clearing the decks for the next attack somewhere in fortress Europe.
    I can’t think what we should call the atrocity of 7 July; London has suffered so many since the 1970s. However let’s try not to do undertake the terrorists’ ‘psy ops’ on their behalf.

  13. “I’m from the U.K., am British, and I live in London..”

    Oh well, pleased to meet you. I’m a Brit, and I used to live in London. The normality doesn’t surprise me. But I am worried that the more time that passes without arrests the more nervy people may get. I’m also worried that with the tricky economic situation after the end of the housing boom this could give things an unwelcome shove.

    “And we need to be seeking the truth about that – everywhere, not just where it suits us to look, or where we think it ought to be found.”

    Well this would be a basic scientific principle, in the end this isn’t about winning an argument, it’s about saving lives. Actually I am reading through the articles in this Jamestown Foundation thing, which I didn’t know before. A lot of the stuff is very interesting, and thought provoking.

    I really mean it when I say I think Spain will be important. Geography and culture have a lot to do with this. Also illegal immigration at the rate of 600,000 a year provides the perfect cover.

    Also incidentally, if I doubt the implication of Spain’s security services it is partly because I have been watching them in action over the Basque situation. Since the ‘irregularities’ at the end of the last PSOE government (circa 1996) the record has been remarkably good, and much less challenged than say the UK in N. Ireland. There are no recent ‘hidden agenda’ type films here.

    I think all security forces have problems with ‘freelancers’, it forms part of the overheads. And someone in the system here in Spain was probably in a mess with a compromised informant. But this is a long way from having direct involvement. I think that the people who blew themselves up in Leganes were those responsible for the Madrid bombings is beyond reasonable doubt. The question would be the extent to which security people were trying to penetrate the net – to break it, not to cause explosions – and who they might have been trying to cut deals with. Without informants you are likely to get nowhere, and the weak point of all these nets is their criminal element.

    And otherwise, no problem, you weren’t blunt.

  14. “It’s as if there is an inevitable progression of key dates”

    Unfortunately Saif I think that’s just where we are. I appreciate your sensitivities, and respect them. More than anything I find these abbreviations ugly and impersonal, but maybe that’s also exactly why we use them. When we talk about 09/11 we no longer here the screams, see the faces in the photos. To carry on we need to do this.

    You also raise a more important point about memory and our relation to historical time. Everything is speeding up, not just the financial markets. Memory of comparatively recent events now fades quickly, and even while one thing is happening we move on to the next one. This is interesting, but there isn’t much we can do about it.

    About whether this gives satisfaction to the terrorists, I think there are two arguments. You put one, which, as I said, I respect. There is another: acceptance that there will be more such events is also a way of handling them, of being ready for them.

    I think we are in two races right now. One to nab the culprits for what happened last Thursday before they do it again, and two, to get all this much more under control before something bigger happens.

    An aside, actually not using suicide bombers is also a psychological tactic. These people can go back and step onto the tube system any time they want. This is one of their psychological tactics, and unfortunately all the bravado in the world won’t help us fight it. Only nabbing them will.

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