Britain and across Europe began examining whether the bombers
who killed at least 49 people during London's morning rush hour
Thursday were part of the same network of Islamic radicals
blamed for the deadly train explosions in Madrid last year.
Spanish authorities said they were collaborating closely with
British investigators and had dispatched a team of explosives
experts to London who were responsible for the forensic analysis
of the bombs that killed 191 people in the Madrid attacks on
March 11, 2004.
British investigators said Friday the four bombs that exploded
on three subway trains and a bus weighed less than 10 pounds
each. In Madrid, the 10 bombs left in backpacks on commuter
trains in Madrid also exploded during the morning rush hour and
weighed 22 pounds on average.
In both cases, timing devices
were apparently used. Spanish officials said the Madrid plotters
crafted the detonators with cell phones whose alarms were timed
to go off together. British investigators are still trying to
piece together evidence about the composition of the bombs in
London. But Ian Blair, the London police chief, said there was "nothing
to suggest there was a suicide bomber involved in this process."
|"My guess is
that the specialists have taken with them all the
information obtained from the backpacks found here
in Spain and will contrast them with what's there,
to see if they come from the same place," said
Rafael Vidal Delgado, an adviser for a
private security firm in Madrid, (Belt Ibérica S.A.)
and a former colonel in the Spanish army. "Obviously
the same type of explosives would provide an
indication of collaboration."
British law-enforcement officials said that they had made no
arrests and would not say if they had developed any suspects.
Investigators cautioned that they had not ruled out any groups
who may have planned the attacks. Home Secretary Charles Clarke,
who is in charge of domestic security, said the search for the
bombers was like "looking for needles in a haystack." But he
added that a claim of responsibility posted on the Internet by a
group identifying itself as the Secret Organization of al Qaeda
in Europe "is something we certainly take seriously."
In the Madrid attacks, Spanish
investigators and prosecutors have charged that a network of
Islamic extremists consisting mainly of Moroccan immigrants were
responsible. Several defendants who have been indicted in the
case are accused members of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group,
which North African and European counterterrorism officials said
has forged an alliance with al Qaeda but is an independently run
European law-enforcement officials have broken up cells
organized by the Moroccan network in the Netherlands, Italy,
Belgium, Spain and France in the past 18 months and characterize
it as one of the primary terrorist threats on the continent.
Moroccan officials have blamed the group for orchestrating the
May 2003 suicide bombings in Casablanca.
The network has also developed a presence in Britain in recent
years. Mohammed Guerbouzi, a man whom Moroccan officials charge
is a founder of the group, has lived in London for years.
Morocco issued an international warrant for his arrest two years
ago, although British officials have said that there was not
enough evidence to take him into custody.
Investigators have long known that suspects in the Madrid
bombings had contacts in Britain. One month after the attacks,
seven suspected members of the Madrid cell blew themselves up as
they were surrounded by police. Investigators later determined
that the suspects had placed three phone calls to Britain
shortly before killing themselves.
"The British are definitely comparing notes on Moroccan cells
across Europe, in Italy, France and the UK," said Charles
Powell, assistant director of the Elcano Royal Institute in
Madrid. "The current thinking is that the people who did this
may have trained in the same camps as the people who committed
the Madrid bombings. The techniques are very similar."
Security analysts said the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group and
other North African groups in Britain have been especially
active in raising money and producing false identity documents
for radical Islamic causes.
Most other Islamic extremists in Britain are attached to
Pakistani and South Asian networks, while Arab radicals from the
Gulf states represent a lesser threat, said Magnus Ranstorp,
director of the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political
Violence at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. While
such networks sometimes overlap, he said, cell members usually
belong to the same nationality or grew up in the same immigrant
"I'm sure investigators are working both dimensions," Ranstorp
said. "Is the center of gravity or focus on Pakistan and
Bangladesh, or is the focus on the North Africans?"
A U.S. law enforcement official said yesterday that information
gleaned from a suspected al Qaeda leader who goes by the nom de
guerre of Abu Faraj Libbi indicates that the group was
interested in carrying out an attack similar to Madrid. Libbi,
whose name means he comes from Libya, was captured in May in
Pakistan. He is now in U.S. custody in an undisclosed location.
The U.S. official also cautioned that Libbi provided no firm
details about such a plot, which suggests that it was only
wishful thinking. Libbi also has told interrogators that while
radical Islamic groups would ideally like to strike the United
States, Europe currently provides an easier target because of
less stringent security and border measures, the official said.
"They're still interested in us, but we're a harder target right
now," the official said.
Two U.S. intelligence officials, who spoke on condition of
anonymity, said the connection between the Madrid network and
the London bombers was one of several working theories being
pursued by investigators. They said they were giving equal
weight to the possibility that other groups were behind the
U.S. and European counterterrorism officials have also named Abu
Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian who is the leader of a network of
foreign fighters in Iraq, as a possible inspiration for the
London bombings. Zarqawi has struck an alliance with al Qaeda
but has developed a separate network of supporters in several
Staff writers Dan Eggen in Washington and Dafna Linzer in New
York, staff researcher Julie Tate in Washington and special
correspondent Jennifer Green in Madrid contributed to this
The Washington Post