Terror Cell in Madrid

Hey Mutineers – been on the road for last week & a half and I’ve got a couple of posts in the coffer… Still, headlines covering the break up of the suicide bomb cell in Madrid were worth a quick post. Why? Because it’s the first bust-up I’ve seen where all the terrorists were desi

The judge identified the three alleged suicide bombers as Mohamed Shoaib, Mehmooh Khalib and Imran Cheema. He said they had arrived in Barcelona from Pakistan some time between October and mid-January.

…Moreno identified the ideologues in the new alleged plot as Maroof Ahmed Mirza, 38, and Mohammad Ayud Elahi Bibi, 63. He said the former was the main religious leader and organizer of the cell.

The five other men sent to jail were named as Mohamed Tarik, Qadeer Malik, Hafeez Ahmed, Roshan Jamal Khan and Shaib Iqbal.

Nine are Pakistanis; Khan is Indian.

The implications are interesting and many.

UPDATE: 2 of ‘em have been released including the Indian dude(s) –

Authorities in Spain are understood to have released two persons, including an Indian national, who were among 14 persons arrested in that country for allegedly planning to carry out terror strikes there.

Roshan Juman Khan, a Mumbai resident, was released on Thursday, sources said though an official word from the Spanish authorities was awaited.

The second person, Sarosh Ali Mohammed, was released yesterday with the Spanish authorities in Madrid saying he hails from Hyderabad. It was not clear whether it is the city in India or Pakistan.

Hat tip to Marl Balou for the pointer…

194 thoughts on “Terror Cell in Madrid

  1. Let’s not forget that the US is not just reacting to extremist Islam, the US gave birth to it.

    A fairer statement might be that extremist Islam is the bastard child of many fathers. The Cold War combatants, socio-economic challenges in the Arab states where oligarchs got wealthier and the poor have little opportunity despite college educations and where opportunistic leaders using the mantle of Islam seized upon the general malaise and discontent to create a movement for their own benefit. Really no different than many other movements throughout history that justified murder using an ideology to move the masses while securing power for a few.

    The implications are interesting and many.

    Based on this article, the foiled Spain attack may spawn a heightened alert level in the U.S. come election time.

  2. Fair enough, but let’s be sure to not use placeholders like “democracy” or “terrorism” to obscure underlying reality. I could imagine a situation in which a “terrorist” attack against a “democracy” might be morally justified. I think you could, too. That said, I don’t think any of today’s “terrorist” groups are near that line, in my opinion.

    I recognize that there are many different definitions for terrorism and the only basics involved in all of them are violence or threat of violence, but the one I use when I talk about terrorism is the purposeful targeting of civilians in order to reach some political goal, which in my opinion is never justified. Hamas is free to try to take on the Israeli army, Lakshar-e-Taiba is free to take on the Indian army, but blowing up innocent people should have nothing to do with it. (And yes, both armies have also committed human rights violations, the perpetrators of those crimes should be punished, but that doesn’t invalidate their countries’ sovereignty)

  3. 149 · nala said

    If regular Americans are culpable for the actions of the U.S. government because they pay taxes to it, does that make regular Muslims spiritually culpable for the actions of Islamic terrorists because they worship the same god?

    First of all, I am not claiming that “regular Americans” are culpable for anything except having a short-attention span and ignorance of history’s impact. However, if I wanted to get into this argument you’ve presented, I’d have a much easier time defending the first position than the second because Gawd is a hoax but the fact that your money supports short-sighted violent campaigns is a provable fact.

  4. I recognize that there are many different definitions for terrorism and the only basics involved in all of them are violence or threat of violence, but the one I use when I talk about terrorism is the purposeful targeting of civilians in order to reach some political goal, which in my opinion is never justified

    Really? Say that the Sri Lankan army was committing genocide in Jaffna. Tamils couldn’t defeat the army militarily. But, by killing 1000 civilians w/ a bomb in Colombo they could bring down the current government, and the new government would stop the genocide. (Please don’t fight the hypothetical.) You wouldn’t pull the switch? (I’m taking the spirit of my example, but not the particulars, from a good book I read about terrorism, but I can’t find it in my stacks right now, or I would cite it–sorry.)

  5. 151 · Jangali Jaanwar said

    socio-economic challenges in the Arab states where oligarchs got wealthier and the poor have little opportunity despite college educations and where opportunistic leaders using the mantle of Islam seized upon the general malaise and discontent to create a movement for their own benefit.

    Again, the US had (has) a hand in supporting those oligarchs with weapons, training, and money, which has led to the socio-economic challenges you mention and, as a result, strengthened support for opportunistic “religious” leaders.

    I’m not trying to convince anybody that America is horrible (I don’t even believe that) or that “terrorists” are justified but if we don’t stop for a moment, acknowledge our complicity, and take the long view before we head off on another short-sighted misadventure we will be stuck in this cycle indefinitely.

  6. 148 · nala said

    It’s an established democratic country, people responsible for war crimes should be on trial

    What about the people responsible for putting those war criminals in power (i.e. the electorate). We don’t have kings in this country.

  7. First of all, I am not claiming that “regular Americans” are culpable for anything except having a short-attention span and ignorance of history’s impact. However, if I wanted to get into this argument you’ve presented, I’d have a *much* easier time defending the first position than the second because Gawd is a hoax but the fact that your money supports short-sighted violent campaigns is a provable fact.

    Sorry, that’s what I interpreted this statement as: (I see now that you’re not stating that ‘regular Americans’ are culpable for anything, but it was preceded by a statement about how ‘terrorism’ is a meaningless term, so I guess I saw it as a follow-up to that…)

    Let’s not forget that we pay taxes to the only government which has ever dropped an atomic bomb, which maintained 10 years of sanctions that were responsible for the death of 500,000 Iraqi children, and arms, trains, and finances paramilitaries that terrorize the countryside and does contain people who explicity state their intent to dominate the world.

    Though I agree with the Gawd being a hoax thing. :) But just to stretch the argument – you could say that currency is a hoax too, what makes it valuable is that the U.S. Treasury prints it and deems it valuable, but the end result is the same… dead people.

    Really? Say that the Sri Lankan army was committing genocide in Jaffna. Tamils couldn’t defeat the army militarily. But, by killing 1000 civilians w/ a bomb in Colombo they could bring down the current government, and the new government would stop the genocide. (Please don’t fight the hypothetical.) You wouldn’t pull the switch? (I’m taking the spirit of my example, but not the particulars, from a good book I read about terrorism, but I can’t find it in my stacks right now, or I would cite it–sorry.)

    Hmmm… I don’t know. :) It’s a good thing I’m not a politician… Wasn’t this the same kind of logic used to justify bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki? And what is the certainty that bombing Colombo would cause the government to stop the genocide?

  8. What about the people responsible for putting those war criminals in power (i.e. the electorate). We don’t have kings in this country.

    No, but we don’t have a direct democracy either…

  9. 154 · rob said

    <

    blockquote>

    I recognize that there are many different definitions for terrorism and the only basics involved in all of them are violence or threat of violence, but the one I use when I talk about terrorism is the purposeful targeting of civilians in order to reach some political goal, which in my opinion is never justified
    Really? Say that the Sri Lankan army was committing genocide in Jaffna. Tamils couldn’t defeat the army militarily. But, by killing 1000 civilians w/ a bomb in Colombo they could bring down the current government, and the new government would stop the genocide. (Please don’t fight the hypothetical.) You wouldn’t pull the switch? (I’m taking the spirit of my example, but not the particulars, from a good book I read about terrorism, but I can’t find it in my stacks right now, or I would cite it–sorry.)

    I wouldn’t really consider it a choice at all, if you consider a choice to be a situation in which you have at least one favorable outcome possible. If you choose not to resist in any manner, a hostile force could subjugate your own people or you could bomb innocent people and become a monster as a result, lose whatever credibility you might have with foreign interlocutors like the Norwegians, and with your own people.

  10. Wasn’t this the same kind of logic used to justify bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki? And what is the certainty that bombing Colombo would cause the government to stop the genocide?

    Yes, it is the same kind of logic. And it usually isn’t a good description of the real world, which is why terrorists are almost always condemnable. However, in my hypothetical, I was positing that it would cause the gov’t to stop the genocide. You are right to be extremely skeptical of the justifications that terrorists offer (see, e.g., LeT, LTTE, Hezbollah, etc.) but I just wanted to caution you against digging in too deeply on the “never justified” assertion you made.

  11. 159 · muralimannered I wouldn’t really consider it a choice at all, if you consider a choice to be a situation in which you have at least one favorable outcome possible

    Well, fair point, but–call it a “choice” or no–still–would you pull the trigger on the bomb?

  12. but I just wanted to caution you against digging in too deeply on the “never justified” assertion you made.

    Well I guess even if innocent deaths aren’t justified, the motives behind them are…

  13. Again, the US had (has) a hand in supporting those oligarchs with weapons, training, and money, which has led to the socio-economic challenges you mention and, as a result, strengthened support for opportunistic “religious” leaders.

    I don’t disagree. I just wanted to clear an impression that extremist Islam is solely a creature of US policy. (which I realize you weren’t trying to say).

    but if we don’t stop for a moment, acknowledge our complicity, and take the long view before we head off on another short-sighted misadventure we will be stuck in this cycle indefinitely.

    I guess it really depends on what you think the long view is and what is in our power to change the dynamics that allow extremists or extreme ideologies to flourish. People have been asking that question for ages and haven’t yet found a solution, especially where that solution can create more problems. E.g. US efforts to counter communist occupation/domination in Afghanistan leads to the support of the precursor to the Taliban.

  14. I guess it really depends on what you think the long view is and what is in our power to change the dynamics that allow extremists or extreme ideologies to flourish. People have been asking that question for ages and haven’t yet found a solution, especially where that solution can create more problems. E.g. US efforts to counter communist occupation/domination in Afghanistan leads to the support of the precursor to the Taliban.

    Yes, this is the toughest question of all! Should the U.S. really be supporting Mubarak in Egypt? It’s easy to say if you take a non-consequentialist position, but damned near impossible to answer with any confidence if you take account of consequences, especially if you open up the options of supporting him but being able to negotiate for changes X, Y or Z.

  15. 148 · nala said

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    Nala, the reason I put “terrorists” in quotes is the same reason I’d put “war” and “innocent civilians” in quotes. These are highly loaded terms which change meaning depending on who is using them and in what context and to what political end, which makes them essentially meaningless. Let’s not forget that we pay taxes to the only government which has ever dropped an atomic bomb, which maintained 10 years of sanctions that were responsible for the death of 500,000 Iraqi children, and arms, trains, and finances paramilitaries that terrorize the countryside and does contain people who explicity state their intent to dominate the world.
    Ok – I’m not exactly gung ho America, but this is a little bit too much relativism for me to stomach. I don’t believe that those terms are essentially meaningless. Various international bodies recognize most countries as countries, and so when those countries’ militaries engage in combat they’re at war. But when terrorist groups who have been recognized as such by various international bodies (that includes the EU condemning the LTTE, the UN Security Council & NATO condemning Al Qaeda) launch attacks on noncombatants on ‘enemy’ soil, that’s by definition terrorism. I know that even various international bodies are not objective and influenced by geopolitics, and that their decisions are politically tinged, and I know that the U.S. government is certainly guilty of a lot of things. But I don’t think that it should have to mean that the U.S. as a country loses its sovereignty and all groups become equal actors on a world stage. It’s an established democratic country, people responsible for war crimes should be on trial, but it doesn’t make terms like ‘terrorist’ meaningless…

    Terms like “terrorist” tend to lose their power when people who were demonstrably terrorists and war criminals are given simple detention or even asylum by western lib-democracies like the UK and US. One cannot credibly position oneself as an arbiter of who is a terrorist when one is also dividing the room into “with us” and “against us” while harboring the same human stains that one is decrying.

    that said, i do agree with your definition of a terrorist.

    Karuna actually waltzed into the UK with a valid diplomatic passport from the government of Sri Lanka after having been implicated in child-soldier recruitment and umpteen murders, disappearances and the like.

  16. 163 · Jangali Jaanwar said

    I guess it really depends on what you think the long view is

    At this point I’d consider anything beyond “the next election cycle” the long view. Baby steps. We’ll work our way up to seven generations eventually.

  17. 165 · muralimannered that said, i do agree with your definition of a terrorist.

    Maybe you think utilitarianism is a facially stupid theory (which is a respectable position held by some very smart people), but if you don’t, keep in mind that (a few) terrorist acts could be justified within a utilitarian framework (nearly all terrorism in our world, of course, fails even a utilitarian calculus, b/c it doesn’t accomplish anything).

  18. I think that others have said this before, but I am personally not sympathetic to people that “blame” the US for inciting 9/11, while absolving the terrorists of responsibility. These are just excuses used by Islamic militant leaders to whip people up into a frenzy, and additionally, these “first cause” explanations always blame the other party for the provocation (there was a really cool psychological study about this a couple of years ago, people always clearly remember the other person’s statement that led to the escalation of the argument, but rarely their own). That said, it is important that the long term implications of these actions are part of the national consciousness so that political leaders are forced to factor these implications in their foreign policy decisions (for example, the convenient supporting of Mushie because “he’s the best option for Pakistan” and is the bulwark against Islamic fundamentalists has eerie overtones of the US propping up of Saddam – of course, entire tomes can be written about the crimes against humanity of Reagan).

    And nala, you are right that most, if not all, the organizations that international bodies currently declare as terrorists deserve that label, the reason for skepticism is that there are many actors who fully deserve that label who are not brought to account in any way, shape or form. Examples include Kissinger, at least some folks in the current Bush government, as well as the ones that muralimannered pointed out.

  19. And nala, you are right that most, if not all, the organizations that international bodies currently declare as terrorists deserve that label, the reason for skepticism is that there are many actors who fully deserve that label who are not brought to account in any way, shape or form. Examples include Kissinger, at least some folks in the current Bush government, as well as the ones that muralimannered pointed out.

    Isn’t a lot of this (those actors who fully deserve that label not brought to account for it) because of the failure of the courts in their own countries? (I don’t mean the U.S.) And they’re allowed into Western countries like the U.S. and the UK because whatever crimes they committed don’t factor into the current geopolitical scheme?

  20. 171 · Rahul said

    Never underestimate a robust ABD Hindu true believer.

    You’re right about the robust and true believer part. But I’m way sexier than the guys in those pics you linked to.

  21. I dunno – I can’t get myself to stop looking at the guy doing the Hindu squat. Damn you Rahul… it’s mesmerizing at 3 in the morning.

  22. But I’m way sexier than the guys in those pics you linked to.

    I really appreciate your letting me know. I only hope, for your sake, that this opinion has more of a basis in fact than your other ones.

    I dunno – I can’t get myself to stop looking at the guy doing the Hindu squat.

    Much better than Hindu women doing the squat, it would seem.

  23. Much better than Hindu women doing the squat, it would seem.

    yeesh. women in general are down on their luck when it comes to that sort of thing anyway.

  24. Tell me more about what would, for you, count as factor(s) “outside of religion” and perhaps we can bear down on a mutually intelligible (the fault lies as much with me as with you, I’m sure) discussion

    The “Naxalites” have a cause that working class and the poor are exploited and indulge in violence. We have Tamils fighting for a separate homeland in Srilanka on the basis of their language (I think it is the same case with Kurds in Iraq). So “language” and “class” struggle are factors “outside of religion”.

    I don’t see a similar non-religious factor behind a Pakistani Muslim trying to blow things up in Spain. Unless you bring in a theory that Spanish local government has caused enormous suffering on Pakistani people by its trade embargoes etc.. etc. I don’t see any other way that the motives of Pakistanis can be explained by factors outside of religion.

  25. 167 · rob said

    in mind that (a few) terrorist acts could be justified within a utilitarian framework (nearly all terrorism in our world, of course, fails even a utilitarian calculus, b/c it doesn’t accomplish anything).

    utilitarians believe in rights too; most modern utilitarians use rights as side constraints. you may not increase aggregate utility if a set of specified rights (usually coincides with constitutional/human rights) is violated. and terrorism clearly is an act that involves infringing on the rights of others, so it is incompatible with utilitarianism.

  26. 176 · Ponniyin Selvan The “Naxalites” have a cause that working class and the poor are exploited and indulge in violence. We have Tamils fighting for a separate homeland in Srilanka on the basis of their language (I think it is the same case with Kurds in Iraq). So “language” and “class” struggle are factors “outside of religion”. I don’t see a similar non-religious factor behind a Pakistani Muslim trying to blow things up in Spain. Unless you bring in a theory that Spanish local government has caused enormous suffering on Pakistani people by its trade embargoes etc.. etc. I don’t see any other way that the motives of Pakistanis can be explained by factors outside of religion.

    Yes, ok, I see your point. There’s not such an obvious class (in the case of the Naxalites) or ethnic (as in the case of the LTTE) grievance in the case at point (although a guess a real Marxist might say it is class–but, I see what you’re saying, for sure). I guess my point is that the Islamic extremists who want to (re)take Spain and India on religious grounds are, at the end of the day, also after economic and political power just as much as (or more than!) they are after religious “rights” in the Western liberal sense. I’m not suggesting you’re denying that; but I’m implicitly focusing on precisely that–so, I think we ultimately are just describing different parts of the elephant (i.e., on the same page), but please correct me if I’m mischaracterizing your view.

  27. I guess my point is that the Islamic extremists who want to (re)take Spain and India on religious grounds are, at the end of the day, also after economic and political power just as much as (or more than!) they are after religious “rights” in the Western liberal sense

    I think that’s called as “jihad” against “kafirs” and has “religious” sanction. Political and economic domination is part and parcel of the “jihadi” ideology. If you read the literature of “Al-qaeda”, or their opinion leaders like Maulana Maududi that’s what you’d find.

  28. 177 · portmanteau utilitarians believe in rights too; most modern utilitarians use rights as side constraints. you may not increase aggregate utility if a set of specified rights (usually coincides with constitutional/human rights) is violated. and terrorism clearly is an act that involves infringing on the rights of others, so it is incompatible with utilitarianism.

    You are right that a lot of utilitarians say that they believe in rights. But such “rule-utilitarianism” (which is that view) is intellectually untenable. The position was (famously! and conclusively!) demolished by David Lyons–please read his “Forms and Limits of Utilitarianism” (you will find it a delightfully short book (in contrast to, say, law review articles, which you have correctly griped about the length of)). Modern adherents to the rule-utilitarian (e.g., side-constraints to act utilitarianism) are thick on the ground if you want to count numbers, but they are anti-intellectual backsliders. . . .

  29. 179 · Ponniyin Selvan I think that’s called as “jihad” against “kafirs” and has “religious” sanction. Political and economic domination is part and parcel of the “jihadi” ideology. If you read the literature of “Al-qaeda”, or their opinion leaders like Maulana Maududi that’s what you’d find.

    I don’t disagree with that at all. I just want to high-light that a lot of what they fold into the umbrella of “religion” I call “politics” and “economics.”

  30. 161 · rob said

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    159 · muralimannered I wouldn’t really consider it a choice at all, if you consider a choice to be a situation in which you have at least one favorable outcome possible
    Well, fair point, but–call it a “choice” or no–still–would you pull the trigger on the bomb?

    Simple answer is no. (and to think I didn’t need someone whispering from the sidelines to get the answer!) Mainly because situation in which the killing of a 1,000 civilians will win a war doesn’t really exist–from the rebel side or the UN-recognized government. The collateral damage from the American misadventure in Iraq has far outstripped that figure, yet the general populace is far from cowed. In much the same way, if the Tigers detonate a bomb in Colombo which kills a 1,000 people, I doubt villagers in the south will feel like dropping their support for the chauvinist parties which agitate for war the most?

  31. 182 · muralimannered Simple answer is no. (and to think I didn’t need someone whispering from the sidelines to get the answer!) Mainly because situation in which the killing of a 1,000 civilians will win a war doesn’t really exist–from the rebel side or the UN-recognized government. The collateral damage from the American misadventure in Iraq has far outstripped that figure, yet the general populace is far from cowed. In much the same way, if the Tigers detonate a bomb in Colombo which kills a 1,000 people, I doubt villagers in the south will feel like dropping their support for the chauvinist parties which agitate for war the most?

    Your surmise about the empirics is almost certainly correct. But, you are guilty of “denying the hypothetical,” in which the civilian deaths would (in an empirically unlikely manner, admittedly) lead to an end to the genocide. The hypothetical is meant only to deny the strong claim that terrorism is “never” justified. I am with you as to its “real-world” analysis in almost all cases.

  32. 180 · rob said

    “rule-utilitarianism”

    i did not mean rule utilitarianism, rob; i mean your garden-variety utilitarianism (greatest good for the highest number), and hence, the word, “side constraints.” [eg rawls uses "do not violate liberty" as a side-constraint in applying the difference principle]. maximize utility, but do not violate a, b, and c, which is not really rule utilitarianism. sorry, if that wasn’t clear; gotta go. i do agree, however, that rule ut. is untenable.

  33. 174 · Rahul said

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    But I’m way sexier than the guys in those pics you linked to.

    I really appreciate your letting me know. I only hope, for your sake, that this opinion has more of a basis in fact than your other ones.

    I dunno – I can’t get myself to stop looking at the guy doing the Hindu squat.
    Much better than Hindu women doing the squat, it would seem.

    C’mon, there’s much to be said for the theory of martial races. Let our precocious Curzon-In-Training continue on this merry pseudo-intellectual journey.

  34. 185 · portmanteau i did not mean rule utilitarianism, rob; i mean your garden-variety utilitarianism (greatest good for the highest number), and hence, the word, “side constraints.” [eg rawls uses "do not violate liberty" as a side-constraint in applying the difference principle]. maximize utility, but do not violate a, b, and c, which is not really rule utilitarianism. sorry, if that wasn’t clear; gotta go. i do agree, however, that rule ut. is untenable.

    If you’re trying to maximize aggregate utility, how do you justify the “side constraints?” I.e., what happens if utility maximization in a particular case demands neglecting or overriding the “constraint”? (E.g., to be extreme, world will end unless you violate the side constraint–now, you can’t claim that respecting the side constraint, leading to the end of the world, maximize aggregate utility, can you?) You can’t always maximize utility and satisfy the constraints, no? They can conflict. Maybe the literature has made big advances that I am not up to speed on, but isn’t Rawls a (the!) big critic of utilitarianism? I am confused that you are invoking him (please try to explain more to me about why he is not a rule utilitarian–your description of him seems, to me, to be a canonical example of rule utilitarianism (don’t overlook the possibility that I may be missing something obvious)). Maybe we’re just disagreeing about labels–I don’t mean to, but I hope you can see my point.

  35. 169 · nala said

    Isn’t a lot of this (those actors who fully deserve that label not brought to account for it) because of the failure of the courts in their own countries? (I don’t mean the U.S.) And they’re allowed into Western countries like the U.S. and the UK because whatever crimes they committed don’t factor into the current geopolitical scheme?

    In the case of Luis Posada Carriles it’s because he was acting on behalf of the United States.

  36. The implications are interesting and many.

    Yeah. Sales of Vaseline and other anal lubes should go up in the sub-continent. All “desis” travelling outside India will be a good target segment. Perhaps, south asia becomes the largest market for vaseline worldwide.

  37. 134 · nala said

    And what about atheist neocons like Manju? Who would they have to condemn first? :)

    Robespierre

  38. reminds me of high school when we were taught about communism, immediately followed by mccarthyism to balance things out.

    Don’t worry, Manju, balance is alive and well!

    (I also realize I didn’t address your analogy to black racism well. There are two points I wanted to make: First that Hindu religious fundamentalism in India has the ability to wield significant detrimental power – which is what I lazily referred to in the statement that nala took offense to, and second, while you might disagree, it is extremely dangerous to creeping danger of illiberalism in societies that actively cultivate their self image of democracy, rights and freedom, because the myth won’t change even as the facts do.)

  39. 41 · Salil Maniktahla said

    Where’s Razib, dammit?

    118: >

    In a lame attempt to channel the sadly-missing Razib

    Razib is busy enjoying the fame of his name/blog appearing on page 69 of the Jan/Feb issue of SEED magazine ( which might have been itself worthy of the news tab but couldn’t find a web link )