by Joe Aguilar
This is a summary regarding some of the latest developments in the investigation of the Madrid Train Bombings published since September 14th 2005. Most of the information comes from the Libertad Digital website and City FM radio, being compiled and analyzed by journalist Luis del Pino.
The presumption of innocence of all the people named in this article is preserved.
As we know on March 11th 2004, around 7:35 AM, ten powerful explosions ripped off four packed commuter trains in and around Madrid. Deaths numbered 192, 152 people were severely injured and more than 1000 others lightly wounded.
The official version told us that some Moroccans, remotely linked to an Al Qaeda cell already captured, carried out the attack using rucksacks loaded with Spanish dynamite originating with Asturian miners. One of those bombs, number 13, did not explode, and the SIM card in the mobile phone used as a timer was the lead that enabled the Spanish Security Corps to swiftly make arrests of members of this group just before Election Day.
Later, at the beginning of the summer of 2005, probably after a defence attorney leaked the entire Summary, more data, that does not necessarily fit into the official version, have been published; showing an intricate and bizarre set of plots involving a heterogeneous group of intellectual extremists, frustrated GIA members, hash traffickers, Spanish miners, a bunch of police informers and an ex-Francoist hardliner, now a high ranking Socialist party official, among others.
A Glimpse of the Truth at Last?
Where is the truth in all this mess? Who lies? What is a part of a cover up? A Police investigator would tell us that if we want the truth, we should go to the place where the crime was committed, search for evidence and then develop a logical theory (hopefully only one) that fits and helps to explain other related developments.
Finally, on September 14th, eighteen months after the attacks, Luis del Pino, brought us back to the trains in a very successful way. He published in Libertad Digital the testimony of the provincial chief of the TEDAX (Technicians in Explosive Deactivation) in Madrid, that is included in the 3/11 Judicial Summary. This was the person in charge of coordinating the four units, one working in each attacked train, which searched for unexploded devices and began the investigation on March 11th.
Surprisingly, this subordinate of Sanchez-Manzano, who unlike him is a real TEDAX promoted by experience, declared before the judge, on July 12th 2004, that:
1) The visual inspection he carried out in arriving at Atocha station revealed that the damage in the trains could not be caused by dynamite, but by some type of military explosive, like C3 or C4.
2) Nevertheless, the two deactivated rucksacks (one in Atocha and another one in El Pozo stations, numbers 11 and 12) contained some other type of explosive, because the procedures of deactivation anticipated for C3 or C4 failed. That is, the rucksacks found without exploding contained something different from the bombs that had exploded.
3) The TEDAX gather samples and vestiges for a forensic analysis. Usually, says the inspector in his declaration, those samples and rests are taken to the office of the Provincial Group of the TEDAX. Nevertheless, that day, against the habitual procedure, the samples were taken to the central office of the TEDAX, directed by Sanchez-Manzano.
4) Finally, this inspector of the TEDAX revealed to the judge the reason why the rucksack of Vallecas, the #13, had not exploded. It was because there were loose two wires and he informed him that that was known from March 12th, because before deactivating the device of Vallecas, a X-ray was performed to the rucksack.
First, this information, that the bomb #13, the one that leaded the Police towards the Moroccans arrested just before the Elections, was not intended to explode, was hidden from the media and thus from the public at decisive moments.
Second, we all were being told (tell a lie one thousand times and it will become a truth) that the terrorists used in the attacks dynamite Goma-2 ECO sourced in Asturias, that ended in the hands of a group of Islamic extremists that were being observed by security forces, easily cornered after the attack and forced to commit suicide.
Now the explosive expert on charge of the investigation that morning, an actual TEDAX promoted on experience, says that this is not the case. The explosive used was military because those high detonation velocity compounds cleanly cut the metal, while dynamite-like, lower velocity ones, “bite” it. Just looking to the damage he assessed from the first moment that it was neither Titadine nor Goma-2 ECO.
Other facts that fit with this expert opinion is that some devices were allegedly placed in the litter bins in the walls of the carriages that faced towards the platform. This would also kill people outside the train and cause the larger numbers of casualties, as the footage from Atocha surveillance cameras shows.
If it was used a military explosive, the amount of it necessary for each device is much lower, as Luis del Pino points out. The bombs may have been the size of a pocket book, much easier to leave inside a train litter bin than a Tupper-ware container with some five kilograms of dynamite and a mobile phone. Probably there was just one terrorist per train, easing the logistics issue.
In addition, the Alcala de Henares van, found near the station where the trains were supposedly loaded with the bombs, contained, among a lot of other evidence pointing to Muslim extremists, some Spanish dynamite Goma-2 ECO mixed with methenamine (hexamethylenetetramine). This compound is a raw material of Hexogen and other military explosives, such as RDX, and can be easily sourced. However, in the dynamite from the bomb #13 this compound was not present.
What is going on here? Were three kinds of explosive involved in the same attack, high explosive, Spanish dynamite with methenamine, and Spanish dynamite without it?
According to the forensic analysis and the testimony of the senior explosive expert in the site of the attack, finally after 18 months, the truth has reached the Spanish public: the answer is yes.
Moreover, the provincial chief also declared about the two devices found unexploded. He said that he ordered his men to enact procedures to deactivate high explosives, thus being pretty sure about his first diagnostic. From his testimony to investigating Judge Del Olmo, pages 19147 and 19148 of the Summary:
“The operative techniques and procedures used [to try to deactivate the devices found] followed the first hypothesis, according to the damage of the explosions in the trains, that it was high explosive, not believing at that point that it was dynamite”
However both bombs went off, in his expert opinion, because the method failed: it wasn’t high explosive.
Is he lying? I do not think so – this chief TEDAX declared, correctly, that there was vital evidence that had been hidden – the X ray performed to the rucksack #13 – and has founded his opinions about the explosive composition on facts: metal damage and bombs going off under a high explosive deactivation procedure.
At this point Luis del Pino begins to develop his theory.
If we accept the forensic reports and the testimony of the TEDAX chief, in the 3/11 attacks there were at least two different sets of bombs. Probably ten loaded with high speed explosive, which did the job, and two others, that did not exploded, loaded with non-military explosive and probably using a mobile phone as a timer, as the local policeman saw in on the Del Pozo train device.
What had happened to the terrorists? Did they run out of high tech components and made two other bulky beginner-level devices that failed? Evidently not, if those bombs were there it is because the perpetrators wanted them to be. That is, they were deceiving elements, like her sister, the bomb #13, the bomb that was assembled intentionally leaving the wires unconnected in order to be found unexploded, the bomb that led so swiftly the Police towards some Moroccans, just in time to change the outcome of the elections.
Pushing Luis del Pino theory further and taking into account some other fragmented forensic reports, probably the actual bombs (1 to 10) contained RDX mixed with some nitroglycerine, and the false ones (11 and 12) dynamite, that is, stabilized nitroglycerine, with some methenamine, which is the main raw material of RDX; in order to make any chemical analysis on the rests found around the explosions indecisive and arguable.
The bomb #13 was very probably assembled hours after the attacks in order to carry out her sisters’ task, when they accidentally exploded as the TEDAX applied them a wrong deactivation procedure. They used an already prepared mobile phone containing a SIM card from Zougam’s store, in order to link him to the plot and so enabling some arrests of Muslims to be performed in time.
The explosive for this device was probably bought in a hurry, which may explain the difference in composition with the dynamite found in the van of Alcala de Henares station. The person that mounted it, did not dare to attach the wires between the mobile phone and the detonator, just sticking them into the mass of explosive.
All this work was done so rapidly that the result was a pathetic example of fabricated evidence, with even the time programmed, 7:40, being late by two minutes; that its use as a proof in the 3/11 trial is questionable.
As we can see, Luis del Pino elucidation of the facts not only is logical and fits the evidence, but also brings light to some dark points, such as the difference in composition between the dynamite in the Alcala van and the bomb #13, both left intentionally by the terrorists. Its publication on September 14th removed one of the veils around the 3/11 attacks and pointed out some conclusions:
- The mastermind knew a lot about explosives, but not that the effect of high explosives on the structure of the trains would be different than the damage caused by dynamite. From www.fas.org:
The shock wave from a TNT [high explosive] explosion is of relatively short duration. […] The duration of the positive phase of a shock wave is an important parameter in the response of structures to a blast.
The plot almost failed because the mastermind of the attack did not foresee that an expert could identify the kind of compound used not only by its chemical composition, but also by the damage it causes (or its behaviour under a wrong deactivation procedure). He thought that the TEDAX would assume it was dynamite, maybe because ETA had tried to carry out a similar attack on Christmas Eve. Is this other loose end that Luis del Pino theory ties?
- The actual perpetrators had access to military explosives, uncommon ones.
- The entire Asturian plot, El Chino cell that committed suicide in the Leganes flat, the Syrians and others might be just a part of a smoke screen since the explosive they sourced was only used to mislead the investigations and the public opinion.
- The plot was probably not masterminded by Muslim extremist elements; otherwise no deceiving game would have been necessary.