A few days ago Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported that more than a year before the deadly March 11, 2004, train bombings, Spanish police received detailed information about the plans of a group of Islamic fundamentalists to attack Madrid. On February 12, 2003, the wife of Muhannad Almallah entered a Madrid police station and told officers that her husband was planning a car bomb attack in Madrid and that the likely targets were the towers of Plaza de Castilla, a modern and imposing structure located on one of Madrid?s busiest arteries. The woman told officers that her Madrid apartment was often visited by men who watched jihadi tapes and talked about carrying out attacks and identified many of them by name. Spanish authorities did not act.
13 months later they realized the mistake they made. Syrian national Muhannad Almallah, along with his brother Moutaz, is now considered one of the key organizers of the Madrid attacks. Spanish authorities acknowledge that without the "recruiting, indoctrination and direction of the Almallah brothers, the March 11 attacks possibly would not have occurred."
The other men identified by Mrs. Almallah are also key players in the 3/11 plot such as Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet (the "Tunisian," believed to be one of the operational leaders of the cell) and Basel Ghalyoun (a Syrian accused of having materially put one of the bombs on a train on March 11).
The story, if confirmed, proves two things:
1- Spanish authorities did not pursue Islamist terrorists aggressively enough before 3/11. The Almallah incident is just one of the many "missed opportunities" stories in the Madrid bombings, much as the current "Able Danger" embarassment.
2- While the timing of the bombings might have been masterfully planned to make Spanish voters blame the Aznar government's support of the Iraqi war for the attacks, the carnage in Madrid had little to do with Iraq. In February 2003, when Mrs. Almallah reported her husband's murderous plans for the Spanish capital, the war in Iraq had not even begun.