July 10, 2005
Terror in London
Mastermind of Madrid is key figure
Nick Fielding and Gareth Walsh
THE terrorist believed to have organised last years
Madrid train attacks is emerging as a figure in the
hunt for the London bombers.
Spanish security sources are said to have warned four
months ago that Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, a 47-year-old
Syrian, had identified Britain as a likely target.
Coded commands from the Syrian, thought to have
included threats to other European countries including
Britain, were found in a flat raided after the Madrid
bombings in March 2004.
Spanish investigators said Nasar, now believed to be
in Iraq, had set up a sleeper cell of terrorists in
Britain. But they believed he was planning an attack
to coincide with the British general election in May,
rather than the G8 summit last week.
One Spanish website yesterday claimed the General
Information Commission, a Spanish police intelligence
body, issued a report in March warning that Britain
and Spain were the primary western targets. The
statement was based on Spanish investigations into the
In addition, investigators have noted strong
similarities in the methods of the two multiple,
coordinated bombings against public transport systems.
Last Friday, a team of Spanish detectives arrived in
London to help the Metropolitan police with the
After last weeks explosions, police were believed to
be looking into Mohamed el-Gerbouzi, a Moroccan living
in London who has been jailed in Morocco in his
absence for terrorism offences. Yesterday, however,
senior Met officers were strongly discounting that he
had any involvement in the London bombings.
Nasar, from Aleppo, Syria, also known as Abu Musab
al-Asuri, who has a $5m (£2.9m) American bounty on his
head, is believed to have fled either to Iraq or to
the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
He has connections with London going back more than 10
years, has mixed with many prominent terror suspects
and has reportedly been arrested in Britain in
connection with bombings on the Paris Metro.
When Nasar moved to London in June 1995 he was already
under surveillance by Spanish police, who made a video
recording of his departure with his wife Elena. They
were accompanied by Abu Dahdah, a Syrian later
arrested in Spain, accused of recruiting bombers and
now on trial for providing support to the 9/11
Once in London, Nasar moved his family into a house in
Paddock Road, Neasden. From there, he edited the Al
Ansar magazine, a newsletter of the Algerian Armed
Islamic Group. He became an associate of the cleric
Abu Qatada, one of the detainees released from
Belmarsh prison last year and accused of being
Al-Qaedas ambassador to Europe.
In January 1997 he also set up a company called
Islamic Conflict Studies Bureau. In documentation
filed at Companies House, Nasar describes his
nationality as British.
His co-director in the company is named as Mohamed
Bahaiah. Bahaiah is known to have been an Al-Qaeda
courier in Afghanistan, where he is believed to have
been responsible for delivering videotapes to foreign
news media. Tayssir Alouni, a correspondent for the
Arabic television news channel Al-Jazeera, claims to
have met both men in Kabul in the late 1990s.
Nasar was reported to have been arrested by British
police following the 1995 bomb attacks on the Paris
Metro, but later released. The American Department of
Justice said this weekend that Nasar had served as a
European intermediary for Al-Qaeda before leaving for
Afghanistan in 1998.
He is now believed to be an associate of Abu Musab
al-Zarqawi, the Al-Qaeda chief in Iraq. Some reports
claim he has been spotted in London since the Madrid
Nasar is at the centre of a network of connections
uncovered by British and Spanish police between
Britain and the Madrid atrocities.
One of the last phone calls made by a group of seven
bombers cornered in a police siege of a flat near
Madrid was to a British Muslim cleric using the name
Ben Salawi. After the call the bombers blew themselves
up, apparently at his command. British police said the
clerics name was not known to them but may have been
Last March a Syrian-born man was arrested and accused
of helping indoctrinate the Madrid bombers, following
a raid on his home in Slough, Berkshire. Moutaz
Almallah Dabas, 39, is accused of renting a flat in
Madrid where the men received initial training. Dabas,
a Spanish citizen, is fighting extradition to Spain.
He was detained just 24 hours after his brother,
Mohammad Almallah Dabas, was arrested by police in
Spain. Lawyers acting for the Spanish authorities told
a court that Moutaz Dabas had housed radical Islamists
at a house in Madrid he owned with his brother.
In that house, Dabas and others kept texts referring
to and published by Osama Bin Laden for distribution
and encouraged those who attended to pledge their
affinity to the jihad ideology of Osama Bin Laden,
they told the court.
Others arrested in connection with the Madrid bombings
and linked to Britain include Jamal Zougam, 31, a
Moroccan believed to have visited contacts in London
seeking funding, fake identities and logistical help
for the terrorists.
Spanish prosecutors believe two Moroccan men who blew
themselves up during the Spanish siege also spent time
Within hours of the London attacks responsibility for
them was claimed in an internet statement by a
previously unknown group calling itself the Secret
Organisation Group of Al-Qaeda.
Yesterday, a second claim of responsibility was made
by Abu Hafs al Masri Brigades, which also claimed the
Madrid bombings: We will not rest until security
becomes a reality in the land of Islam in Iraq,
Afghanistan and Palestine.