Counter-terrorist police probing the massive attack in Madrid one week ago see a “definite link” to Muslim extremists in Britain, according to a senior British law enforcement official.
Detained palestinian cleric Abu Qatada, regarded by British and Spanish authorities as a key al-Qaida figure in Europe, likely will be questioned, reported the Independent newspaper of London.
“We believe there is a London link with what happened in Madrid,” said metropolitan police commissioner Sir John Stevens. “There is a definite link in what has happened.” The March 11 blasts in Madrid killed 202 and injured more than 1,500 just days before last Sunday’s Spanish elections and tomorrow’s first anniversary of the U.S. led war in Iraq. The Independent quoted a “senior anti-terrorist source” who said the man suspected of organizing the attack, Jamal Zougam, 30, is believed to have traveled to the UK to acquire funding and logistical help. Authorities believe Zougam had connections to Qatada, known also as Omar Mahmoud Abu Omar, who received asylum in Britain in 1994.
The palestinian cleric, born in Jordan, was given a life sentence after being convicted in absentia in his home country for 1988 terrorist attacks. British police arrested him along with eight other people in 2001 on suspicion of terrorist activities, but all were released. The British government froze his assets after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S.
Qatada has denied any connection to al-Qaida but has expressed sympathy for leader Osama bin Laden.