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Family charged in Madrid bombings

By Al Goodman
CNN Madrid Bureau Chief

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Video of the March 11 bombing of a Madrid commuter train. (Viewer discretion advised)
Massacre in Madrid

Madrid (Spain)
Acts of terror

MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- A Spanish investigating magistrate has charged a Moroccan family of four with collaborating with a terrorist group in connection with the Madrid train bombings last March that killed 191 people, a National Court spokeswoman told CNN on Saturday.

The magistrate remanded two of them to jail -- brothers Brahim Moussaten, 21, and Mohamed Moussaten, 20 -- while releasing their parents, Allal Moussaten, 43, and his wife, Safia Belhadj, 42, although the couple remains under charge.

The four, arrested last Tuesday near Madrid, were arraigned in an eight-hour, closed-door session that started Friday evening at the National Court and ended around 1 a.m. local time Saturday, the spokeswoman said.

The four are allegedly linked to terrorist activities through another relative, Youssef Belhadj, 28. He is the brother of Safia Belhadj, and the uncle of her sons, Brahim and Mohamed Moussaten.

Youssef Belhadj was re-arrested in Belgium last Tuesday on a warrant from Spain, which is seeking his extradition.

"Yousseh Belhadj is the main suspect in this group," the court spokeswoman said.

Investigators believe Youssef Belhadj may be Abu Dujanah, a suspected al Qaeda spokesman in Europe who claimed responsibility for the train bombings in a statement issued last year.

The March 11 bombings, which targeted crowded commuter trains during the morning rush hour, killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,600. Police blame the attacks on Islamic terrorists.

Belhadj and his sister's family have suspected links to the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, a terrorist group whom authorities have blamed for a role in the train bombings.

Belhadj was in Spain a month before the train bombings and stayed with his sister and her family at their home in the southern Madrid suburb of Leganes. He indoctrinated his two nephews in radical Islamic teachings and abruptly left Spain shortly before the bombings, the court spokeswoman said.

Three weeks after the bombings, seven suspected terrorists with key roles in the bombings blew themselves up on April 3 as police closed in on their hideout apartment in Leganes, the same southern suburb where the family of four lives.

But two other train bombing suspects escaped the police siege in Leganes, and one of them -- Mohamed Afalah -- later called the Moroccan family to request the phone number of Youssef Belhadj in Belgium. Investigators believe Belhadj may have aided in Afalah's escape.

The court spokeswoman denied reports that the family of four may have taken an active role in helping Afalah and another suspect, Abdelmagid Bouchar, escape from the April 3 police roundup.

Youssef Belhadj had been arrested in Belgium last March but was not initially linked to the train bombings, Spanish police said. Further investigation led to his arrest again last Tuesday in Belgium and the Spanish extradition request.

Investigating magistrate Juan del Olmo, who is leading the investigation into the train bombings, conducted the arraignments on Friday.

He is due to arraign two other train bombing suspects early next week. They were arrested last Wednesday in Madrid, and on Friday in the Spanish enclave of Melilla, on Morocco's northern coast.

There have been dozens of arrests in the Madrid train bombings, and about 20 suspects are in Spanish jails. Others charged with lesser involvement are free on bail or conditional liberty and must report regularly to authorities. In addition, police have issued arrest warrants for other suspects.

Only one train bombing suspect has gone to trial so far. The 16-year-old was the only juvenile charged in the case, and he was convicted last November of helping to facilitate and transport explosives from a mine in northern Spain that were used in the bombings. He was sentenced to several years of confinement.

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