One of the groups that planned the 9/11 attacks operated in Spain, hiding in plain sight by working at ordinary jobs by day and planning terror and mayhem by night. This from AP, :
One ran a photocopy shop in a drab Madrid suburb, quietly churning out literature preaching holy war. Another directed real estate companies and is now accused of laundering money that went to al-Qaida.
Their purported boss was a used-car salesman who spoke to them in code, recruited in mosques, drove like a spy under surveillance and allegedly helped prepare the Sept. 11 attacks.
This personality-driven portrait of how a suspected radical cell of Muslims took shape in the 1990s in Spain – which became a staging ground along with Germany for the 2001 suicide airliner attacks in the United States – is contained in a 700-page indictment by a Spanish judge.
Other Middle Eastern or North African-born members of the alleged cell of Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network also ran businesses – a carpentry shop, a ceramics factory, an audio equipment store – as fronts while working for al-Qaida, according to the court document.
Many recruits ended up in Bosnia or Chechnya for terrorist training or combat. They also went to Afghanistan, and on Dec. 26, Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon asked the United States to extradite four alleged al-Qaida members arrested in Afghanistan after the Taliban was toppled in 2002.
The four – now held at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo, Cuba – were accused of links to the Spanish cell leader and charged with belonging to a terrorist organization.
That was the latest twist in an investigation that began in the mid-1990s and culminated in Garzon’s Sept. 17 indictment of bin Laden and 34 alleged terrorists, including 19 suspected members of the Spanish cell.
No trial has been set. Still, the indictment means that Garzon has enough evidence to go to trial, although there is no deadline and he can keep gathering evidence as long as he wants.
Spanish authorities say the cell turned the country into an important staging ground for the attacks on New York and Washington that killed nearly 3,000 people. Lead suicide pilot Mohammed Atta visited Spain twice in 2001, including a trip in July that Garzon says was called to discuss last-minute details with other senior plotters.
The Spanish cell’s alleged mastermind was 40-year-old Imad Yarkas, a Syrian-born used car salesman with a Spanish wife and five children. He was jailed in Madrid in November 2001, one of about 40 alleged Islamic extremists arrested in Spain since the attacks.
The cell’s financier, Garzon says, was another native Syrian, Muhammed Galeb Kalaje Zouaydi. He ran construction and real estate companies in Madrid as fronts to receive and funnel money to pay for al-Qaida operations, Garzon charged.
Some $3.1 million entrusted to Zouaydi by “Islamic investors” inside and outside Spain is unaccounted for, the indictment charged.
Garzon describes how Zouaydi allegedly laundered money, or tried to, including a transaction in the summer of 2000 in which Yarkas told him of a building materials supplier willing to sell bogus invoices.
Zouaydi said he wanted $240,000 worth. “All the kinds of stuff we work with: paint, flooring, wood,” Zouaydi said, according to the indictment, which cited wiretapped telephone conversations. The deal fell through because Zouaydi felt the supplier wanted too much money, Garzon said.
Through their attorneys, both Yarkas and Zouaydi have denied any wrongdoing. “His conscience is clear,” said Yarkas’ attorney, Jacobo Teijelo.
But Garzon charged the two men and nine others with specifically taking part in Sept. 11 planning, accusing them of “direct involvement in preparation of [the attacks] by providing infrastructure and cover, coordinating movements in Europe” of al-Qaida members.
He called them “key persons who catalyze national and international relations of all the members of the group, assuming the obligation of not only meeting their needs but directing and indoctrinating them.”
Yarkas was in charge of recruiting fighters, the indictment said. At the Abu Baker mosque in Madrid, Garzon said, Yarkas would hand out copies of pro-jihad magazines from Algeria and Egypt or statements attributed to bin Laden.
One day in February 1995, Garzon says, Yarkas spent three hours in the shop, emerging with Dalati lugging what appeared to be photocopied magazines. The materials were loaded into the trunk of Yarkas’ Peugeot, and he proceeded to the mosque.
“They kept a constant lookout around them, adopting security measures,” Garzon wrote. Elsewhere, Garzon says, Yarkas altered his routes for arriving at the same destination and changed speed constantly.
A senior Spanish law enforcement official said that because police could not enter mosques, the houses of worship were havens for al-Qaida planning and fund-raising. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.
By telephone, cell members spoke in code, the indictment charges. Merchandise meant weapons. Pills were bullets, trade offices were recruitment centers and salesmen were mujahedeen sent off to train as terrorists or fighters.
National Police spokesman Jose Maria Seara said other cell members worked harvesting vegetables in northern Spain or as waiters. And one good way to go unnoticed, he said, was to stay in plain view. “Police cannot spend all day tracking a waiter,” Seara said.