MADRID, Spain – Forensic experts are trying to obtain DNA samples from Iraq to determine if a suspect in the 2004 Madrid train bombings committed a bomb attack there, a police official said Thursday.
The Interior Ministry said Wednesday that five men arrested this week in Spain helped key suspects in the bombing flee Spain, including Mohamed Afalah (search), a Moroccan whose whereabouts have been unknown since June 2004.
The ministry said that after the bombing, Afalah made his way to Belgium and Syria, and, after calling his father to warn him and apologize, apparently staged an attack in Iraq sometime between May 12 and 19. The target was not known.
The Spanish police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the May 19 was the "more probable" date but did not specify why.
On May 19, a bomber drove his car into an Iraqi army checkpoint in southern Baghdad's Doura neighborhood, killing one soldier and injuring another eight, according to the Iraqi army.
The official said Spain is trying to obtain DNA samples from police in Iraq.
Another suspect in the Madrid bombing, Mohamed Belhadj, may have traveled to Iraq with Afalah, the ministry said Wednesday as it reported the five arrests and separate raids that netted 11 suspects accused of belonging to a Syrian-based network that recruited suicide attackers for Iraq.
Authorities spent nearly a year searching for Afalah — considered an aide to a ringleader in the Madrid bombing. They got a break in the case in March when one of the five men arrested this week bought a cell phone in Madrid that was intended to be a bug-free channel for Afalah to call his father, the ministry said.
Afalah tried to call his father several times, first from Syria and then from Iraq, to say he was sorry and tell him he was going to stage a suicide attack in Iraq, the ministry said.
Mohamed el Idrissi, who bought the phone and delivered it to Afalah's father, later decided to follow in Afalah's footsteps by staging a suicide attack in Iraq, the ministry said. El Idrissi was arrested Tuesday in Madrid.