Tue. Jan 25th, 2022

The suicide apartment house blast that killed the alleged ring-leader of last month’s Madrid train bombings and three other terror suspects left the core of the terror group either dead or in jail, Spain’s interior minister said on Sunday. Explosives discovered in the building where the four killed themselves to avoid capture Saturday night indicated they were plotting more violence and were linked to the failed bombing of a high-speed rail line Friday.

Two or three suspects may have escaped before blast, which also killed a special forces officer and wounded 15 other policeman, Interior Minister Angel Acebes told a news conference.

Sarhane Ben Abdelmajid Fakhet, a 35-year-old Tunisian accused of spearheading the March 11 attacks that killed 191 people, was among the four who died in the explosion in Leganes south of Madrid, Acebes said.

“The core of the group that carried out the attacks is either arrested or dead in yesterday’s collective suicide, including the head of the operative commando unit,” Acebes said.

Fifteen suspects are already in custody in the Madrid attacks. Six have been charged with mass murder and nine with collaborating with or belonging to a terrorist organization. Eleven of the 15 charged are Moroccan.

The 22 pounds of dynamite and 200 detonators found in the apartment are the same as that used in the March 11 attacks and in the bomb that was discovered Friday before it could explode along the high-speed rail line between Madrid and Seville, Acebes said.

“They were going to keep on attacking because some of the explosives were prepared, packed and connected to detonators,” he said.

The type of explosives and detonators found are widely available in Spain, and the match was not certain proof of a connection.

The judge overseeing the probe of the attacks issued international warrants for Fakhet and five others last week. Fakhet’s was described as “leader and coordinator” of the suspects in the March 11 bombings. It said he had been an active campaigner for jihad, or holy war, among the suspects as early as mid-2003. He had shown signs of preparing a violent act in the Madrid area “as a demonstration of said jihad,” the warrant said.

Another man on the warrant list, Abdennabi Kounjaa, a Moroccan, also was identified as among the four who died Saturday night. A third man – Asri Rifaat Anouar – was not on the list. The fourth suspect’s body was too severely mutilated to identify immediately, Acebes said.

Acebes said the explosion hurled pieces of that corpse into a swimming pool in a courtyard of the apartment. He did not say how officials knew those remains came from the unidentified suspect.

Residents saw police working under floodlights scoop pieces out of the pool before dawn Sunday. “I think they found a lot of remains,” said Carmina Sanchez, 43, who lives in the building next door.

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