As investigators continue to look into the March 11 train bombings in Madrid, Spain, the connection terrorists’ drug connections are becoming more clear, the Boston Globe reported May 30.
According to officials, a Moroccan terror cell traded hashish for the dynamite used in the attacks, which killed 191 people aboard commuter trains.
A Moroccan drug trafficker led the cell, and was among those who blew himself up after a standoff with police last month.
Investigators are concerned about how quickly the Moroccan cell was formed by teaming a drug gang with students and shopkeepers. Officials said the “narco-terrorism” is a textbook example of the potential threat that exists when Islamic extremism is combined with organized criminal networks.
“It worries us very much,” said a high-ranking Spanish police commander. “Until now, Islamic terrorism and drugs were two separate areas. Now, you are not sure where to look. You are not sure whom you are dealing with. I don’t know of any previous cases like this in the West.”
Anti-terrorist officials said other similar operations may be located throughout Europe and North Africa. For instance, in Italy, a member of the Neapolitan Mafia converted to Islam and has established an exchange of arms for drugs between the Neapolitan Mafia and Islamic terrorists.
In prisons in Belgium and other neighboring countries, recruitment by Islamic groups has increased. “The intermingling of terrorist networks with the criminal milieu is becoming more and more important,” said Belgian police anti-terror commander Alain Grignard, an Islamic specialist.
“It’s in prisons where political operatives recruit specialists whom they need to run their networks — specialists in fraudulent documents, arms trafficking, etc.,” Grignard said. “They use concepts that justify crime, that transform it into redemption. The prisons of today are producing the terrorists of tomorrow.”