Madrid: The deadly train bombings that struck Madrid in 2004 were directly planned by an al Qaeda member, a Spanish terrorism expert said on Tuesday, presenting a study of new evidence from intelligence officials.
Spanish courts sentenced 18 people for the bombings, which killed 191 people on two packed commuter trains on March 11, 2004, ruling that they were inspired by -- but not organised by – al Qaeda.
But a new book by terrorism expert Fernando Reinares indicates the bombings were instigated by a senior al Qaeda member and the armed Islamist movement directly "approved and facilitated" them.
Reinares said that since 2008 he had been studying official documents from several countries and from al Qaeda itself and interviewing intelligence officials in Pakistan and elsewhere.
"The decision-making process and the terrorist mobilisation that gave rise to the March 11 attacks were top-down processes and it was ultimately al Qaeda that approved and facilitated the attacks," he said on today.
Reinares, a researcher at the Real Instituto Elcano international affairs institute and associate professor at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, was presenting his book to journalists ahead of its publication tomorrow.
"The decision to attack Spain was taken in December 2001 in Karachi," Pakistan, and was instigated by Amer Azizi, a senior al Qaeda leader and member of a cell set up in Spain by the network in 1994, Reinares said.
He said the Madrid attack was initially conceived as revenge for authorities breaking up that cell but its final approval by the network`s leaders in 2003 was driven by Spain`s involvement in the US-led invasion of Iraq.