"They use every means and mechanism, and their activity can even
be initially perceived as ordinary delinquency," Garzon said of the cells.
"In my opinion it is the gravest problem Europe faces today with
this kind of terrorism."
Garzon said his figures came from police and intelligence data.
Officials at the Moroccan Embassy could not be reached to respond
to Garzon's allegations. Morocco, too, has done its share of finger-pointing at Spain since the train bombings, but both countries
have pledged to work more closely against terrorism.
Garzon said his first reaction to the train bombings was that al-Qaida
was responsible, not Basque separatists as initially claimed by the government. He cited the scale of the carnage and the
level of coordination 10 nearly simultaneous blasts from backpacks full of dynamite and shrapnel.
"The spectacle was absolutely horrifying," Garzon said. "It is probably
the most shocking thing I have ever seen and I hope it is the last."
Garzon said he had second thoughts when police told him in error
that the explosives were a brand favored by Basque separatists, but he became convinced the attacks were linked to Islamic
extremists hours later after learning that a van containing detonators, explosives and a tape with Quranic verses was found
near a rail station.
"It was like a light bulb going on," Garzon said, referring specifically
to the tape. "I had no doubt whatsoever."
At that point the government already blamed the Basque group ETA,
and even after disclosing the existence of the tape it continued to insist ETA was the prime suspect.
Spain's then-conservative government at first backed the U.S.-led
Iraq war despite fierce opposition at home, sending 1,300 troops after major combat ended. After the train bombings, it feared
that word of an Islamic link would doom it in general elections due in three days.
Voters did punish the government, electing Socialists who opposed
the war and quickly brought the soldiers home.
Garzon testified before the 16-member commission as an expert on
Islamic terrorism after investigating extremist groups in Spain since 1989.
The National Court, where Garzon works, is conducting the main probe
of the bombings, but Garzon is not directly involved. The separate, legislative inquiry is aimed at examining the government's
handling of the massacre and whether it could have been averted through warnings from intelligence agencies.
Last month, Garzon completed an eight-year investigation that led
to indictments against 41 al-Qaida suspects, including Osama bin Laden, accusing him and a dozen others of preparing the Sept.
Morocco was hit by a string of terrorist bombings on May 16, 2003,
killing 45 people, including 12 suicide bombers. One of the main targets was a Spanish restaurant and social club, and four
of the victims were Spaniards.
Moroccan authorities blamed al-Qaida and reacted with a crackdown
on fundamentalist suspects, arresting more than 5,000 people, although most were released. But 700 remain behind bars and
17 face the death penalty, which has not been imposed in Morocco since 1993.
After the Madrid bombings, Moroccan authorities insisted they had
warned Spain about one of the key suspects, a Moroccan named Jamal Zougam.
There also is a recent history of ill will between the countries:
there have been disputes over fishing rights, illegal immigration and territorial claims that nearly led to a military clash
Garzon said Thursday the Spanish government's support for the Iraq
war was probably only one factor leading to the terrorist attack.
Islamic cells have been present in Spain since the early 1990s,
and Muslims in North Africa maintain a historic claim to the Spanish territory that the Moors ruled for 800 years and called
al-Andalus, Garzon said.
Al-Qaida has struck other countries since Sept. 11, including Indonesia
and Turkey. For Spain, he said, "maybe it was just a question of time."