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Cablegate: Spain: 2008 Country Report On Terrorism

DE RUEHMD #1306/01 3471725
R 121725Z DEC 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 120019

1. (U) As requested in REFTEL A, Post's submission for the
"2008 Country Report on Terrorism" follows in paragraph 2.
POC for the CRT in Spain is Hugh Clifton. Telephone
34-91-587-2294, email: CliftonLH@state.gov.

2. (U)

The Government of Spain and its citizens were concerned that
their country has been and remained a principal target of
Islamic extremism as well as domestic terrorism. On the
international front, al-Qa'ida deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri and
the leaders of al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)
routinely called for the recapture of the former
Muslim-controlled region in the Iberian Peninsula they still
call "al-Andalus." As the fifth anniversary of the March 11,
2004 Madrid train bombings approaches, the Spanish government
remained in a constant state of heightened alert and took
pride in the fact that there have been further deaths in
Spain at the hands of jihadists since 2004. Spain cooperated
closely with the United States to investigate and prosecute
acts of terrorism and to prevent future attacks, and worked
hard to disrupt terrorist acts that possibly were directed
against U.S. interests.

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Spain remained an important transit and logistical base for
terrorist organizations operating in Western Europe. Its
geographical location, large population of immigrants from
North Africa, and the ease of travel to other countries in
Europe, made Spain a strategic crossroads for international
terrorist groups. The Spanish government feared that
experienced terrorists may make their way back to Spain in a
reverse terrorist pipeline; however, as of December 2008, the
number of returnees was unknown.

Spain continued to aggressively target terrorist recruiters
and facilitators. As of late October, 65 suspected Islamist
terrorists had been detained, according to the Ministry of
Interior. Many of these individuals were believed to be
supporters of terrorist groups such as AQ, AQIM, and the
Moroccan Islamic Combat Group (GICM).

The Spanish government began 2008 with the January 19 arrest
of 14 suspected radical Islamists - primarily Pakistanis - in
Barcelona who allegedly were plotting to attack the city's
transportation system. The Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan
terrorist group, which has links to al Qa'ida, claimed that
those arrested were part of its organization and that the
attacks had been planned to retaliate against the Spanish
military presence in Afghanistan. In June, Spanish police
arrested eight Algerian nationals on charges of suspicious
activities with links to jihadist cells, including recruiting
and indoctrination, as well as providing financial and
logistical support to Islamic terrorist organizations. In
October, security services arrested a dozen radical Islamist
suspects, all Moroccan nationals, accused of financing
terrorism and of sending recruits to Iraq. Some members of
the cell were also accused of helping some of the suspects in
the Madrid train bombings flee the country. All were
subsequently set free, except for four individuals already in
prison on other charges.

The domestic terrorist group Basque Fatherland and Liberty
(ETA), whose aim is to create an independent Basque state,
waged its deadliest year yet against the Zapatero
administration, in office since 2004. ETA's attacks
throughout the year claimed four lives and wounded dozens of
others. On March 7, on the eve of Spain's national election,
ETA gunmen murdered a former town councilman in Mondragon.
On May 14, an ETA truckbomb detonated at a barracks in
Legutiano killed a Civil Guard. On September 22, a carbomb
detonated at a military academy in Santona, killing a
corporal in the Spanish army. The fourth victim, a Basque
businessman, was shot by ETA gunmen on December 3.
Nevertheless, Spain's intensified cooperation with the French
government put considerable pressure on ETA. Joint
operations in France resulted in - among other successes -
the detention of ETA's alleged political leader in May and
its alleged military chief, who reportedly was also the
number-one authority in ETA, in November. A joint operation
on December 9 resulted in the arrest of the alleged
replacement military chief. All three arrests occurred in
France with the participation of Spanish security forces. As
of mid December, security services had arrested 158 alleged
ETA members or associates, including 33 in France.

In the judicial arena, the Spanish Supreme Court in 2008
overturned the convictions of several radical Islamists from
two previous, high-profile cases. In July the Spanish
Supreme Court announced the acquittal on appeal of four of
the 21 convicted defendants in the Madrid train bombings
trial who had been sentenced in October 2007. The four had
been sentenced to between 5 and 12 years for smuggling
explosives and membership in a terrorist organization. The
Supreme Court also upheld the lower court's acquittal of the
suspected mastermind of the attacks, agreeing with the lower
court's decision that he be acquitted of belonging to a
terrorist organization because he had already been sentenced
in Italy and could not be tried for the same crime twice. In
October, the Supreme Court overturned 14 of the 20
convictions of a cell sentenced in February 2008 for plotting
to truckbomb the National Court. The Supreme Court also
reduced the sentences of another four of those convicted in
the plot.

Spain participated in the Megaports and Container Security
Initiatives, and worked hard to deny terrorists access to
Spanish financial institutions. Spain maintained a robust
law enforcement and intelligence posture against terrorist
finance. Spain was a member of the G8's Counterterrorism
Action Group and provided technical assistance to other
countries to help build their institutions to counter
terrorist finance. Spain is a longtime member of the
intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force and its efforts
to combat money laundering are considered comprehensive and
effective, although Spain has not designated Imad Eddin
Barakat Yarkas, the leader of the Madrid-based
al-Qa'ida-affiliated cell detained shortly after 9/11.
Throughout 2008, Spain had a very active role in the Global
Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. Spain hosted a
table-top exercise in May, a plenary meeting in June, and a
field training exercise in October. This series of events
developed Spain's own expertise in disaster preparedness and
contingency planning and served to build the capacity of
fellow Global Initiative partner nations.

Spain also signed numerous multilateral agreements to
strengthen counterterrorism cooperation on a political level.
For example, in May, the Ministers of Interior from Spain,
France, Portugal, Italy, Malta, Algeria, Libya, Morocco,
Mauritania and Tunisia, agreed to strengthen their exchange
of information to prevent anybody accused of a terrorist
crime from finding shelter in those countries.

On a bilateral level, Spain signed agreements with Morocco
and Algeria. Spanish and Moroccan General Prosecutors
Offices in June signed an International Protocol of
Cooperation to fight terrorism and organized crime. Also in
June, Spain and Algeria signed a bilateral Agreement on
Security to Fight Terrorism, Illegal Immigration, and
Organized Crime, which includes the exchange of information.
Spain contributed more than 750 troops to the International
Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.


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