Spanish indictment details workings of terror cell

War On Terrorism

The World

November 23, 2001|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

MADRID, Spain - The man known as Abu Dahdah paid his bills by selling the occasional used car, he told neighbors. That's how an out-of-work laborer could afford a comfortable place for his wife and four children in the new apartment complex on Pablo Neruda Street.

But selling used cars was not Abu Dahdah's business in Spain, according to a 25-page indictment prepared by a Spanish investigative judge this week. Instead, Abu Dahdah was Osama bin Laden's main man in Madrid.

The indictment contends that the man whom neighbors remember primarily for walking the dog and driving his children to school commanded a terror cell that raised tens of thousands of dollars for the holy war, largely through armed robbery and credit card fraud, and sent legions of recruits to train in terror camps or fight in Afghanistan, Chechnya and Bosnia.

Abu Dahdah's terror cell also helped carry out the Sept. 11 terror attacks in New York and Washington by providing money and support to the Hamburg-based terror cell now thought to have planned those attacks, the indictment charges.

Eight men, including Abu Dahdah, have been charged in Madrid with being members of the cell. They deny the allegation.

For a construction worker without a steady job, Abu Dahdah took a lot of trips, the indictment contends.

Twenty times since 1996 he flew to the United Kingdom, it says. He also traveled to Turkey, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Indonesia, Malaysia and Jordan.

The men he is accused of meeting and talking to by phone form a worldwide who's who of Islamic extremists. The Spanish document connects the European terror cells and names Abu Dahdah as a critical link.

"It's not local or national terrorism, it's international," said Pedro Rubira, the Spanish prosecutor who will try the case against the Madrid organization. "They can have some cells in Spain, France, Germany and U.K. The cells divide the work among themselves."

The indictment was compiled by Judge Baltazar Garzon, who earned fame for investigating former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet and ETA, the Basque separatist group.

According to Garzon, the men started gathering at Madrid's Abu Baker mosque in 1994 and began calling themselves the Soldiers of Allah.

Their leader was Anwar Adnan Mohamed Salah, a Palestinian-born radical who photocopied publications from terror groups in Lebanon, Algeria, Egypt and Afghanistan and passed them out before prayers. His deputy was Abu Dahdah.

They looked for young and violent Arabs drawn to extremism, the judge contended, and the indoctrination would begin gradually.

Recruits were invited to meetings where they watched promotional videos for holy war: Islamic warriors attacking tanks, blowing up trucks, stalking the enemy in Afghanistan and Chechnya.

In October 1995, Salah moved to Peshawar, Pakistan, where he allegedly helped form the new bin Laden organization known as al-Qaida. Abu Dahdah took over in Madrid and sent his mentor fresh recruits.

Two links tie Abu Dahdah's men to the Sept. 11 plot, Garzon contends.

One of Abu Dahdah's former Madrid phone numbers turned up in an address book seized by German police in the search of an apartment of a Hamburg man who fled the country in August.

That man, Said Bahaji, had been a roommate of suspected lead hijacker Mohamed Atta, until August 1999.

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