Wednesday, September 14, 2011

9/11. The Tarragona connection

Ten years after the tragedy and thousands, perhaps millions, of writings about the event that shaped the beginning of the 21st Century, this small contribution has to do with my personal involvement in the research and hunting down of the perpetrators.

In 2002 I saw in the press a description of the Alqaeda rooster including names and whereabouts of a dozen of identified members of the terrorist group. It included the figure of Mohamed Belfatmi alias "Mohamed the Algerian," a member of the Al Qaeda affiliated cell operating in Spain under Imad Yarkas in the years prior to 9/11. His main activity was to raise money and recruit volunteers to the War in Chechnya against the Russians, to Bosnia and to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Belfatmi had been living in the Tarragona area for some time undercover as a construction worker.

I have always had the idea that, one way or another, the vast majority of the population around Tarragona had gone to our hospital for care. I have reported that, at least for the children, in a two years time, all of them have come to our ER at least once. It might not be the same for the adult population but in one of those rare idle moments on a Sunday I went on and checked the hospital records for Belfatmi.

Sure enough there he was, registered for a minor labour related injury cared for in our ER. The record showed an address in one of Tarragona neighbourhoods and two mobile phone numbers.

Not knowing well what to do, I decided to call the police, the Policia Nacional, the main law enforcement agency for all of Spain. The officer on call registered my name and told me they will call me back shortly. Indeed, about an hour later a rather stern voice that identify himself as a member of the police, questioned me briefly on the matter. I mentioned my findings and made myself available for any other question.

Next morning, as I found out, three plainclothes came to the hospital, requested and obtained all of Belfatmi hospital records, chart and card and left without any explanation. They did not exhibit anything other than their identification badges: no judicial order o warrant, but then again, this is still Spain and privacy and constitutional rights have not become a cherished property of the citizenry yet.

Belfatmi disappeared a few days before 9/11, supposedly in Pakistan and has since been a fugitive. The judge Garzón indicted him but no other judicial actions have come forward.
XA 9/11/2011


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