Morocco: The New Face of Terror?

One year after the Madrid bombings, Europe confronts a rising extremist threat

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MANU FERNANDEZ / AP

MADRID: A year after the bombings, Moroccan radicals still threaten Europe

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Spanish investigators say in the months leading up to March 11, El Chino became the plot's middleman. He grew up in the same neighborhood as two of the other bombers, and Spanish investigators believe he was the link to Jamal Zougam, who provided the cell phones that sparked the detonators for the backpack bombs. He secured from a Spanish ex-miner the bulk of the Goma-2 Eco explosives used in the attacks, paid for with drugs and drug proceeds. Under a pseudonym, El Chino took over the lease on a small country cottage in a village near Chinchón, southeast of Madrid. It was there that he and his team gathered the explosives, practiced their bombmaking, and finally assembled the 10 bombs with their telephone detonators that were deployed on March 11.

The shock of the attacks continues to reverberate across Europe and Morocco, a society that takes pride in its reputation for moderation and tolerance. King Mohammed VI, who was in Madrid last week to attend the unveiling of a monument to the March 11 victims, has spoken out strongly against the terrorists, calling them "villains" who have tarnished the Muslim faith. But counterterrorism experts say the kingdom's autocratic political system may be driving more young Moroccans into the hands of clerics who preach the concept of al-ghazwah, or incursion into enemy territory. "March 11 was an important precedent," says a senior Spanish counterterrorism official. "Now Moroccans know that they can do it. Others may use that self-confidence to do it again." If so, Europe may be only beginning to reap the legacy of El Chino. --With reporting by Bruce Crumley/ Paris, Jeff Israely/ Rome, Scott MacLeod/Tangier and Jane Walker/ Madrid

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