MADRID, Spain – A Spanish judge charged two more suspects in the Madrid bombings (search) early Tuesday as the incoming Socialist government, facing international pressure over plans to withdraw troops from Iraq, doubled its deployment to Afghanistan.
Judge Juan del Olmo charged Basel Ghayoun (search), a Syrian, with mass killings in the March 11 bombings that left at least 190 people dead. The judge also charged Morrocan Hamed Ahmidam (search) with collaborating with a terrorist organization.
At the same time, the judge released three suspects after questioning. Of the 21 people arrested, 14 have been charged, six have been released, and one has not been publicly identified or appeared in court.
The charges stop short of a formal indictment but suggest that the court has strong evidence against them. They can be jailed up to two years while investigators gather more evidence.
Ahmidam's brother Said Ahmidam was released, as were Mohammed Almallah Dabas, a Spanish citizen of Syrian origin and Fouad Almorabit, also from Morocco.
Spanish news agencies reported Monday that another bombing victim, a 49-year-old woman, had died in a Madrid hospital, bringing the death toll to 191. Hospital officials would not confirm the reports. More than 1,800 people were injured in the terrorist attack on four commuter trains during rush hour.
A Morocco-based terrorist cell with possible links to Usama bin Laden's (search) Al Qaeda network and Al Qaeda itself are the main focus of suspicion in the bombings.
Investigators analyzed a videotape in which a man claiming to speak on behalf of Al Qaeda (search) said the group carried out the Madrid attack in reprisal for Spain's backing of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
Three days after the bombings, Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's (search) conservative government was surprisingly defeated in general elections by the anti-war Socialists.
Prime Minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero pledged to remove Spain's 1,300 soldiers from Iraq unless the United Nations takes charge of the occupation. Zapatero says both the war and occupation are illegal because they lack a U.N. mandate.
Zapatero's campaign manager, Jose Blanco, told Spanish National Radio on Monday that plans to withdraw troops from Iraq by June 30 remain in place unless the occupation gets a U.N. mandate.
Facing criticism from the United States and other countries, an aide to Spain's incoming defense minister, Jose Bono, said Monday the nation will double its military contingent in Afghanistan to 250 soldiers this summer.
That decision was made in consultation with outgoing Defense Minister Federico Trillo, said Bono spokesman Jose Luis Fernandez.
Zapatero's party supports the Afghanistan occupation because it is sanctioned by the United Nations, and NATO is commanding the forces overseeing reconstruction after the ouster of the Taliban.
Chris Henderson, spokesman for the 6,500 NATO-led troops in Afghanistan, welcomed the news. NATO is expanding its presence in Afghanistan beyond the capital Kabul, but member countries have been slow to commit more troops.
"It's going to be critical we get additional resources, additional troops," Henderson said.
The Spanish radio station Cadena Ser and the newspaper ABC have reported that Moroccan authorities believe a 36-year-old Moroccan named Abdelkrim Mejjati may have been the on-the-ground organizer of the Madrid attacks. Both outlets quoted Moroccan intelligence sources as saying Mejjati was in Madrid three days before the bombings.
Moroccan authorities told The Associated Press that Mejjati was convicted in absentia after deadly bombings in Casablanca last year and is no longer believed to be in Morocco. Those bombings killed 33 people and 12 suicide bombers.
Moroccan authorities said it was unclear what role Mejjati played in the Madrid bombings.
"Mejjati is a big fish but his precise role is still uncertain," a senior official told the AP.
Also Monday, the newspaper El Pais reported that police searching a rural house where terrorists allegedly assembled the train bombs have found the fingerprints of at least 10 people, including Moroccan prime suspect Jamal Zougam.
Radio station Onda Cero said over the weekend that police also found the fingerprints of Abderrahim Zbakh, another Moroccan leading suspect.
Investigators would not confirm the reports, which also said detonators and traces of dynamite were found in the house near Morata de Tajuna, 20 miles southeast of Madrid. The attackers planted explosives-laden backpacks in four rush-hour commuter trains and apparently triggered them by cell phone.
A cell phone attached to an unexploded bomb was traced to a mobile phone store owned by Zougam.
Both Zbakh and Zougam have been charged with mass murder. Court documents have linked Zougam to members of a Spanish Al Qaeda cell.
French private investigator Jean-Charles Brisard said last week that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian linked to Al Qaeda and suspected of heading a terrorist network in Iraq, is now believed to have masterminded the Madrid bombings.
Brisard is an internationally known counterterrorism expert who has testified before the U.S. Congress and represents some family members of victims of the Sept.11 terror attacks on the United States.