An intelligence service dossier says a third of the mosques in Madrid have links to radical Islamist groups, according to a report published in a Spanish daily. It says that those groups include Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Moroccan organization Justice and Charity and the Tabligh tendency. The following is the text of the report by Juan C. Serrano, “One in three Madrid mosques has connections with radical Islamist groups”, published on the Spanish newspaper La Razon web site on 31 May; subheadings inserted editorially: Madrid: More than a third of the 55 mosques open for worship in the Madrid region have some kind of connection with radical Islamist groups or the presence of Moroccan extremists has been detected in them.
Most of the 11 March [train bombing] perpetrators passed through them. According to an intelligence service report in the hands of the Interior Ministry, to which La Razon has had access, figuring among these links are contacts with Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Justice and Charity, Morabitum and the Tabligh fundamentalist tendency.
Muslim leaders categorically deny it. In 12 years, the places of worship in the country as a whole have gone from 40 in 1992 to the 230 open today, most of them in shop units or garages. The broad expansion of mosques in Spain during these years is also reflected in the Madrid region. In 1992, Muslim immigrants had three places of worship, including the huge mosque on the M-30 [Madrid inner ring road], opened that year.
Today, they have 55 in the entire region, especially in the southern area. The vast majority also operate as Koranic schools or for teaching Arabic to schoolchildren. This swift establishment, often without any kind of monitoring and scarce financial means, is now revealing its darkest side. The intelligence services have detected the presence of Moroccan radicals or connections with Islamist groups in a third of these places of prayer in Madrid. In the first case, extremists from the neighbouring country have been localized acting in the capital’s Muslim places of worship such as the one belonging to the “Coexistence Without Frontiers” association, in Villaverde [southern Madrid].
Outside the city itself, and above all in towns in the outlying area with a large North African presence, radicals have been identified in the communities of Fuenlabrada, Villanueva del Pardillo, Alcobendas, Alcorcon, Mostoles and Parla [Madrid dormitory towns]. The Atauba mosque, in this last town, was frequented by Abdennabi Kounjaa, one of those who committed suicide [after being surrounded by police] in the flat in Leganes [dormitory town] and an actual perpetrator of the Madrid massacre. All the Madrid centres appear in a confidential report in the hands of the Interior Ministry, where each one is classified along with its extremist links – if it has them – or the suspicions attributed to them.
Among these connections are contacts with fundamentalist groups such as Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Justice and Charity, Islamic Alliance, the Tabligh fundamentalist movement or the Morabitum tendency. Palestine Hamas. Considered a terrorists organization by the USA, Israel and, after 11 September, by Europe, it is the main Islamic movement in the Palestinian territories. The intelligence services suspect that this organization has connections with the Abu Baker mosque, in the Tetuan quarter, the biggest in Madrid after the one on the M-30. Its imam, Riay Tatari, a Syrian-born Spanish national, categorically denies it. “That is probably information from the Mosad (Israeli secret service)”, he says. Tatari acknowledges that from the mosque help is given to an NGO and a hospital in Palestine, by means of donations received in collections over around three years. “But that money”, he says, “is not for Hamas”.
Hamas, which has tens of thousands of sympathizers, is formed by a military wing and a political wing. The first, led by the Izz-al-Din al-Qassam brigades, is responsible for the attacks on Israel, whose state it does not recognize. The second has the mission of building schools and hospitals in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It also offers support to the community on social and religious matters.
Of all those open in Madrid, 42 mosques are registered in the Union of Islamic Communities of Spain. Tatari denies receiving funding from Saudi Arabia, Qatar or Germany, as the intelligence services maintain, but at many of the Madrid places of worship it is said that they survive thanks to the help which they receive from the mosque in the Tetuan quarter. “Not a single euro”, he says. “The only help is a Madrid regional government programme which assigns 24 teachers for educating infants in Arabic and the basic principles of Islam”. He says that all the places of worships attached to the Union of Islamic Communities of Spain are self-financed via individual contributions, including the mosque which he runs. But this newspaper has established that the average rent paid for shop units and garages in order to carry out these activities in the districts and towns in the south of the Madrid region is between 1,000 and 1,500 euros a month. They are premises of around 200 and 300 square metres, where each week between 50 and 200 people have to gather for the collective Friday prayer. The rest of the week they remain open for the obligatory five daily prayers. The Muslim Brotherhood. This organization has been present in Palestine since 1940.
Its initial aim was to convert the territories to Islam, but it ended up being the breeding ground from which Hamas fished to begin its suicide attacks when the first intifada exploded in 1987. International antiterrorist organizations relate both groups to Al-Qa’idah.
The intelligence services say there are links between this fundamentalist-type association and the Islamic Centre of Religious Education, located in the Madrid’s Alonso Cano Street. Serhane [Ben Abdelmajid], [alias] El Tunecino [The Tunisian], the spiritual leader of the terrorists who struck in Madrid on 11 March, acted as imam on two or three occasions at its place of prayer. It is one of the oldest Muslim places of worship in Madrid and it is currently in visible decline. Its alleged links with the Muslim Brotherhood date back a long way. Founded in Egypt, it is a very structured, organized and militant movement, which calls for the establishment of Koranic Law.
It is very deep-seated in Egypt, Syria, Palestine and other Muslim countries. Morocco Justice and Charity. It is the most powerful outlawed Islamist force in Morocco.
Led by Sheikh Abdessalam Yassine, they have always refused to recognize the religious legitimacy of the king of Morocco [Mohammed VI] as “Prince of the Believers”. This is the reason why this movement, with broad social support, remains unrecognised by the Alawite kingdom. In fact, its leader, Sheikh Yassine has been under arrest for almost 15 years. The radical movement Justice and Charity, founded by Abdessalam Yasin in 1983, is in control of broad sectors, including that of education, as well as the poorest suburbs of the big cities.
The Madrid mosques suspected of maintaining contacts with this organization are those of Al-Istekama and Al-Falah, both located in Getafe [Madrid dormitory town]. Police reports in this newspaper’s possession also link this organization with another place of worship located in Constitucion Street, in Leganes, and the one open in Getafe Street in the Villaverde Alto district of Madrid. At this mosque, named Atakwa (“He who fears God”), Sharhane El Tunecino, Jamal Ahmidan [alias] El Chino [The Chinaman] and the Oulad Akcha brothers [Mohamed and Rachid], all of them killed in the Leganes collective suicide, met behind closed doors on several occasions weeks before 11 March. It is run by two Moroccans since the expulsion of the previous imam, who preached sermons in favour of the Holy War against the infidels.
It is rented premises at street level which also operates as a school of Arabic for children. The activity, started almost four years ago, is organized by the neighbourhood’s families themselves. They themselves looked for the teacher, a Moroccan graduate in Arabic Studies, who is paid assistance for the classes, which between 40 and 50 children attend. Tabligh. Originating in New Delhi (India), this Islamist tendency rejects the West, like the rest of the radical spectrum, and calls for an Islam which prevails over the individual in all aspects of life. This organization promotes segregationist behaviour with regard to non-Muslim society. It targets young people, paying special attention to small-time criminals, those who have fallen into alcohol or drug consumption.
Financed from Pakistan, the Tabligh movement is considered a sect in Morocco. Its presence in Spain has been detected in Extremadura [western Spain] Catalonia [northeastern Spain] and Andalusia [southern Spain], but above all, where it most proliferates is in the Valencia region [eastern Spain], and in general, on the Mediterranean coast. In Madrid, links with this movement have been found in the mosque open on Pena de Francia Street, where the Spain-Bangladesh association and the Shi’i-oriented Iraqi cultural association Ahlul Bait have their headquarters.
Meetings among members of this organization have also been detected in the Omar Ibn Khatab mosque on the M-30, the biggest in Europe, which is controlled by Saudi Arabia. The Tabligh, one of the most widespread Islamist tendencies in the world, has headquarters in London, New York, Paris and Casablanca. They are not considered violent, but on some occasions they have been accused of inspiring attacks.
Spain Islamic Alliance. This group, which the intelligence services also link to the Arab cultural centre in Pena de Francia Street in Madrid, was led in 1995 by Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, alias Abu Dahdah, leader of Al-Qa’idah’s Spanish cell dismantled by [National High Court judge Baltasar] Garzon in November 2001. Dahdah attracted supporters of an extremist Islamic ideology from among the faithful at the Abu Baker mosque, in Madrid’s Tetuan quarter. They even tried to impose a new fundamentalist leadership there. Without the imam’s authorization, they distributed propaganda by Islamic extremist groups such as the Algerian FIS [Islamic Salvation Front] and GIA [Armed Islamic Group], Hamas, statements by [Usamah] Bin-Ladin, by the Egyptian Jihad and Bosnian and Afghan mojahedin.
Their aim was to attract and indoctrinate the most radical youths in order to send them to Bosnia. A splinter group from this organization was the “Soldiers of Allah”, belonging to which, according to the 11 March investigations, was Jamal Zougam, the first of the Moroccans held as a perpetrator of the massacre. Morabitum.
A movement of radical converts to Islam founded in Granada 15 years ago by the Scotsman Ian Dallas, also known as Sheikh Abdel Kader Al-Murabit [as published]. They champion a pan-Islamic state which includes Al-Andalus [Moorish Spain]. It is the first organized point of dissemination of Islam on the [Iberian] peninsula since the expulsion of the Moors. They are said to have good contacts with the Iranian Shi’is.
Members of this movement have been identified in the Khalid Ibn Al-Walid mosque in Villanueva del Pradillo.