Al-Qaeda’s Revenge

Title:                      Al-Qaeda’s Revenge

Author:                 Fernando Reinares

Reinares, Fernando (2016). Al-Qaeda’s Revenge: The 2004 Madrid Train Bombings. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press; New York: Columbia University Press

LCCN:    2016043284

HV6433.S7 R4513 2016

Date Posted:      December 6, 2017

Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake[1]

Fernando Reinares is the director of the Program on Global Terrorism at the Elcano Royal Institute and professor of political science and security studies at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, both in Madrid. The focus of his research is on individual jihadists, their motivations, and the networks that link them. In Al-Qaeda’s Revenge, he tells how those responsible for bombing commuter trains near Madrid on 11 March 2004, killing 191 people and wounding 1841, were identified as part of the global threat from al-Qa`ida’s jihadist terrorism.

Immediately after the 3/11 bombings, the government blamed ETA (Euskadi to Askatasuna), the Basque separatist organization in Spain. An investigation soon discredited this conclusion and blamed the attack on local radicals who had little or no connection to an outside organization. Mr. Reinares’ analysis, however, disproved this result and established that the attacks were conducted by a coalition of several terror groups under al-Qa`ida’s direction.

The original Qa`ida cell in Spain was created in 1994 (p. 8) and it helped the 9/11 attackers in the planning phase. Most but not all of them were arrested by Spanish authorities after 9/11;.the group’s leader, Abu Dandah and at least four others remained ,at large. (p. 9) In the first part of Al-Qaeda’s Revenge, Mr. Reinares shows how the remnants formed links with groups from Algeria and Morocco to create the 3/11 network. Part 2 discusses why Spain was selected, the decisionmakers—Abu Dandah and others involved, the connection between the 3/11 network and the al-Qa`ida command center in Pakistan, why the 3/11 bombings did not constitute a suicide attack (though some involved later martyred themselves) and the social and political consequences of the bombings.

Al-Qaeda’s Revenge also describes the bombers’ connections in London, Milan, Belgium, and Indonesia, as well as what happened to those who left Spain after 3/11. The intent of al-Qa`ida’s global ambitions and the complexity of its worldwide structure becomes apparent as Mr. Reinares names the many participants and examines their relationships. He also discusses the intelligence exchanges between US and Spanish authorities as each worked to track the terrorists involved. (pp. 91-92)

In his foreword to Al-Qaeda’s Revenge, former CIA officer Bruce Riedel, now with the Brookings Institution, characterizes the book as “one of the most important … written on the subject of radical Islamic terrorism in Europe and North America since 9/11.” (p. xiv) Riedel gives it high marks for the depth of research, the quality of analysis, and the accuracy of its often complex results. Right on all counts.

[1] Peake, Hayden in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (23, 2 Fall 2017, p. 115). Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence, Other reviews and articles may be found online at

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