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Return of the Moor
By Pepe Escobar

The Spanish press has finally confirmed it: the outgoing government of premier Jose Maria Aznar - just like the Bush administration and the British government in relation to the non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq - lied and manipulated information concerning responsibility for the Madrid bombings. Since the morning of March 11, hours after the bombings took place, journalists at the Spanish news agency EFE knew that the official version blaming Basque separatists from ETA was false.

According to the journalists, "already in the morning, EFE learned about the existence of a cellphone configured in Arabic, the van found in Alcala de Henares and [knew] that one of the dead was one of the terrorists. But the information designating Islamist radical terror was expressly forbidden." Those journalists are now calling for the resignation of the news director responsible for the censorship. Spanish and European journalists are talking about a "coup d'etat using information".

Leading Spanish film maker Pedro Almodovar, presenting his latest movie in Madrid, went even further, talking about an e-mail circulating widely on the Internet in Spanish and first published in an Internet forum: "The PP [Partido Popular], by Saturday midnight, was about to provoke a coup But it was the Spanish people who took to the streets demanding information, and fortunately they could not be stopped."

Almodovar was referring to the "SMS [special messaging service] revolution" - the word in the streets of Barcelona - that led to spontaneous demonstrations in major Spanish cities when an avalanche of voters had the impression that Aznar and his government chose to lie on the backs of the 200 dead and more than 1,500 injured in Madrid. The anger was translated in the polls by the victory of the socialists against Aznar's PP.

The Moroccan connection
The Spanish daily El Pais, even before the Ministry of Interior, claimed on Tuesday that the bombings were perpetrated by Salafia Jihadi, a secretive Moroccan Islamist group linked to al-Qaeda and also blamed for the May 2003 Casablanca suicide bombing that killed 42 people, including 12 suicide bombers.

But the plot thickened when Spanish police said that Algerian Said Arel, a resident of Barcelona, coordinated the preparation of the bombings, under the general supervision of none other than the alleged al-Qaeda operative, Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, insistently sold by the Americans as "the new Osama". Experts at a special anti-terrorist cell in Brussels are taking the Zarqawi connection with a pinch of salt. He has been blamed by the Pentagon for practically every major terrorist attack in the last few months: Zarqawi would by now be responsible for the deaths of more than 700 people.

The fact remains that Jamal Zougam, a Moroccan from Tangiers, already in custody, is the key to the whole investigation. One of his cousins in Tangiers denies any involvement. But Zougam was recognized by a witness traveling in one of the trains on March 11. Zougam is directly connected to the Afghan-Moroccans - jihadis who received training in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan - and was already investigated by French police on suspicion of being connected to the dismantled al-Qaeda cell in Spain led by Imad Barakat, aka Abu Dhada, directly implicated in the September 11, 2001 attacks. Zougam is also connected to fellow Tangiers-born Abu Mughen, one of dozens of people arrested in Morocco for the Casablanca bombings. Five other Moroccans, already identified, may have placed the dynamite backpacks on the trains, but by now may have already left Spain.

European investigators are still puzzled: it remains to be seen whether the Salafia Jihadi are connected or mingled with the Lions of Al-Mufridoon, an al-Qaeda cell made up of Moroccans, Tunisians and Algerians which claimed responsibility for the Madrid bombings even before the e-mail sent by the Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades to a London-based Arabic newspaper.

Moroccans, for their part, are understandably on edge. There is a wide consensus in the country that good Muslims could not have possibly perpetrated the attacks, while Moroccan immigrants in Spain are bracing for an inevitable backlash. A Moroccan political leader - who asked to remain anonymous - told the website that "all the talk about Moroccans being arrested is suspicious I smell a clear Zionist plot Who has a catch here? International Zionism is the answer. Implicating Arabs and Muslims in such horrific acts serves to add credibility to the Zionist project."

Spain is the ultimate Eldorado for Moroccans and other northern Africans. There are up to 340,000 legal Moroccan immigrants in Spain, plus tens of thousands of illegals who crossed the 13 kilometers of the Straits of Gibraltar using anything that floats. In 2003 alone, more than 23,000 were repatriated to Morocco. Conservative Spaniards are resolutely against Moroccan immigration.

The new sigh of the Moor
For Islamists and jihadis, Spain is definitely Islamic territory occupied by infidels. Osama bin Laden has already explicitly mentioned the "Andalucian tragedy" when referring to the end of the Moors' (Muslim) presence in Spain.

When the Arabs of the desert conquered Spain in the 8th century, they thought they had reached heaven. No need to wonder, then, why in the minds of jihadis the fate of Boabdil is very much alive. Boabdil was the Last Moor, also called El Zogoybi (The Unlucky). In 1491 the Castillans laid siege to the last Islamic fortress in Spain - and the most fabulous of them all: the magnificent Alhambra, in Granada. On the morning of January 2, 1492 - only a few months before Columbus discovered America - Boabdil surrendered Alhambra. Every serious visitor to Granada goes to the summit of a hill called El Suspiro del Moro - the Last Sigh of the Moor - to reenact the moment when Boabdil turned in tears to take a last glimpse of the Alhambra. At the same time, church bells were ringing all over Christian Europe.

Christian historians insist that the Spanish Reconquista started as early as 722 - only 11 years after the Spanish had been soundly defeated by a Muslim army of only 10,000. But Islam started withdrawing from Spain only by 1085, when they lost Toledo to Alfonso VI. This was 10 years before the official start of the Crusades, when Pope Urban I granted remission of all sins to everyone who joined the holy war against Islam: the Pope said it was a Christian duty to "exterminate this vile race from our lands".

The Moors were in Spain for almost 800 years. Then the Spanish Inquisition deported all Muslims and Jews from the Catholic empire. Those who stayed had to convert. Spanish Jews fled to the Ottoman empire and lived in peace for centuries under the caliph. Muslims had to go back to northern Africa and live for centuries in nostalgia of past glory. Islamic Africa could not muster the energy to engage in another war with Europe. But in the mind of many a jihadi, the Madrid bombing - a direct attack on Castille - is the way of saying, more than 500 years later: "It's payback time." A jihad is never over.

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Mar 18, 2004

The emergence of hyperterrorism (Mar 17, '04)

The al-Qaeda franchise (Mar 17, '04) 

Al-Qaeda goes to the polls (Mar 16, '04)


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