Fri, Mar 26, 2004 - Page 7 News List

More charges over Madrid bombings

DENYING EVERYTHING After being questioned for more than six hours, a male and female from Morocco were charged with collaborating with a terrorist organization


Two more suspects have been charged in connection with the deadly Madrid commuter railroad bombings, authorities said.

Judge Juan del Olmo jailed Rafa Zuher and Naima Oulad Akcha on charges of collaborating with a terrorist group after questioning them separately for more than six hours, court officials said on Wednesday.

The two suspects, both Moroccans, were arrested last weekend. They denied the charges and condemned the March 11 bombings, court officials said.

Spanish authorities have arrested a total of 15 suspects in connection with the bombings -- 11 Moroccans, two Indians, one Algerian and a Spaniard. One of the Moroccans and the Algerian were released. Thirteen remain in custody, of whom 11 now have been charged.

The attacks killed 190 people and injured at least 1,800 others.

Five suspects have been charged with mass murder and belonging to a terrorist group and six have been charged with collaboration.

All but the two Indian suspects are being held in solitary confinement without access to lawyers or family. With the exception of the Spaniard, all of the charged have denied any involvement in the attacks.

The charges stop short of a formal indictment but suggest that the court has strong evidence against them. They can be jailed up to two years while investigators gather more evidence.

Akcha is the first woman arrested in the case. She is the sister of Khalid Oulad Akcha, who was jailed in a separate case but brought to Madrid under Del Olmo's orders.

Suspicion in the attacks has focused on an alleged Morocco-based terrorist cell believed to have links to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network and on al-Qaeda itself.

Investigators have analyzed a videotape in which a man claiming to speak on behalf of al-Qaeda said the group carried out the Madrid attack in reprisal for Spain's backing of the US-led war in Iraq.

The prime suspect in the bombings is Jamal Zougam, an immigrant from Morocco. Spanish court documents have linked him to members of an al-Qaeda cell in Spain.

Unconfirmed news reports on Wednesday said Spanish police had identified five of eight people they suspect carried out the attacks, including the alleged cell leader.

The Periodico de Catalunya daily newspaper said Zougam's fingerprints were found in a van that was discovered just hours after the bombings near a train station outside Madrid. Detonators and a cassette tape of verses from the Quran were found in the van.

The arrested Spaniard, Jose Emilio Suarez, has reportedly admitted having helped provide explosives to the Moroccans.

The Spanish royal family wept as they comforted row after row of mourners, clasping hands and kissing cheeks at Wednesday's state funeral for the 190 people killed in the attacks.

On a cold, overcast day, King Juan Carlos, Queen Sofia and the rest of the royal family joined French President Jacques Chirac, Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair and Prince Charles, US Secretary of State Colin Powell and more than a dozen other heads of state or government in the 19th century Almudena Cathedral.

"We have cried, and we have cried together," Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela, clad in purple vestments, told the congregation of about 1,500.

The attacks traumatized Spain so deeply that the government took the extraordinary step of holding a state funeral for people outside the royal family.

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