The EU to Allocate €270 million to Member States for Customs Control Equipment Over the Next Three Years

The first call for proposals was launched in October 2021, resulting in a total funding of more than €270 million for over 240 strategic Border Crossing Points and customs laboratories across the EU. This will allow Member States to purchase, maintain or upgrade state-of-the-art customs equipment such as new scanners, radiation monitors, teams of sniffer dogs and other non-intrusive detectors for border crossing points as well as a variety of laboratory equipment for goods analysis.

Part of the Integrated Border Management Fund, CCEI supports Member States to finance detection equipment for goods crossing the EU’s external borders. The initiative has the twin aims of improving customs performance by contributing to adequate and equivalent results of customs controls throughout the EU, while helping EU customs authorities act as one single entity. The instrument is part of the long-term EU budget for 2021-2027, with a financial envelope of €1 billion.

Train Hits Dump Truck and Derails, Leaving Three Dead

Three people died and another 50 were injured when an Amtrak train derailed after hitting a dump truck Monday in Missouri, authorities said. Cpl. Justin Dunn, a spokesperson for Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop B, told reporters that two of the people who were killed were aboard the train while the third was in a dump truck that the train struck.

Amtrak said the train collided with the dump truck at a public crossing near the city of Mendon.

Authorities said the incident happened at an intersection that did not have warning lights or motion gates. A gravel road crosses the railroad tracks southwest of town at that intersection. Eight cars and two locomotives left the track, “after striking a truck that was obstructing a public crossing near Mendon, Missouri,” company officials said in a statement.

The train was en route to Chicago. “Saddened by the tragic loss of life and injuries in the Missouri train derailment today & Northern California collision over the weekend,” Pete Buttigieg, U. S. secretary of transportation, tweeted. Federal Railroad Administration staff and the NTSB will be on site to investigate. It was the second train accident in two days in which an Amtrak train hit a passenger vehicle.

Train and Car Collide in California

Three people died and two others were seriously injured when an Amtrak train collided with a car in Brentwood, California, over the weekend according to the East Contra Costa Fire Department.
The two people who were wounded (one was a child), suffered serious injuries and were taken to a local hospital, according to officials.

Chargebacks911 Takes to the Skies With AirlinePros in a New Partnership to Tackle Fraud

Chargebacks911, the leading dispute technology specialists, today announces its new partnership with AirlinePros, a representation and distribution firm for airlines and travel suppliers, to defeat fraud and friendly fraud for travel industry merchants.

Like other major online merchants, travel industry partners including airlines, hotels, and online travel agencies, took a big hit from chargebacks filed wrongly against them during the pandemic. People are traveling once again, with the bounce-back beginning in 2021, with global passenger numbers up almost 30% to 2.3 billion. However, this was still only around half of 2019’s 4.5 billion travelers. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), it will be 2024 before passenger figures return to 2019 levels. In part, this is due to a lack of personnel such as pilots, which leads to cancellations and disruption that ultimately means customers are dissatisfied and therefore seek refunds.

AirlinePros recognized the struggles their partners were experiencing and sought with Chargebacks911 to solve this problem and assist travel providers worldwide to reduce the losses associated with chargebacks wrongly filed against them. Data sets provided by Chargebacks911 will include negative and positive information about disputes and chargebacks, which help fight friendly fraud as well as cases of true criminal fraudulent activity.,” Achma Asokan Foster, CEO, AirlinePros, said. “For us, this is a key issue that we’ve identified for the airline industry on an ongoing basis. So, we acted by bringing in the expertise, experience, and knowledge of Chargebacks911, to deal with the thousands of chargebacks resulting from the disruptions due to the pandemic and any other reason. We believe that Chargebacks911 will play an important role both in a preventative capacity and improve the overall customer experience for our client airlines and the industry at large.”

Harlan Hutson, director of Strategic Partnerships at Chargebacks911, adds: “Chargebacks911 is well-versed in supporting merchants in the travel space, with deep knowledge and understanding of how the industry works when it comes to fraudulent activity. Airlines are particularly unique in this world, with added complexities and multiple players along the chain, so we are delighted to be able to offer our unparalleled expertise and solutions to AirlinePros clients as it works to get the industry back to normal.”

Rail Workers Strike in UK

Thousands of rail workers struck in Britain on today, Tuesday June 21. The train system slowed to a crawl in the biggest transit strike in 30 years in the country. Those who struck included cleaners, signalers, maintenance workers and station staff. The plan was to hold a 24-hour strike, but two more were planned for Thursday and Saturday.

London Underground was also subjected to a walkout by workers on Tuesday, compounding the situation. The strike demands include better pay and working conditions as the rail system recovers from the Covid slow down.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union reported that it will not accept rail firms’ offer of a 3% raise, which is far below the rate of inflation, currently running at 9% in the UK. The union says the Conservative government refused to give rail firms enough flexibility to offer a substantial pay increase. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the strike was “harming the very people they claim to be helping” and called for “a sensible compromise for the good of the British people and the rail workforce.”

DHS Has New Cybersecurity Requirements for Surface Transportation Owners/Operators

DHS Has New Cybersecurity Requirements for Surface Transportation Owners/Operators

DHS’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has implemented two new Security Directives and additional guidance for voluntary measures to strengthen cybersecurity across the transportation sector in response to the ongoing cybersecurity threat to surface transportation systems and associated infrastructure. These actions are among several steps DHS is taking to increase the cybersecurity of U.S. critical infrastructure.

“These new cybersecurity requirements and recommendations will help keep the traveling public safe and protect our critical infrastructure from evolving threats,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “DHS will continue working with our partners across every level of government and in the private sector to increase the resilience of our critical infrastructure nationwide.”

TSA is increasing the cybersecurity of the transportation sector through Security Directives, appropriately tailored regulations, and voluntary engagement with key stakeholders. In developing its approach, including these new Security Directives, TSA sought input from industry stakeholders and federal partners, including the Department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which provided expert guidance on cybersecurity threats to the transportation network and countermeasures to defend against them.

The TSA Security Directives announced today target higher-risk freight railroads, passenger rail, and rail transit, based on a determination that these requirements need to be issued immediately to protect transportation security. These Directives require owners and operators to designate a cybersecurity coordinator; report cybersecurity incidents to CISA within 24 hours; develop and implement a cybersecurity incident response plan to reduce the risk of an operational disruption; and, complete a cybersecurity vulnerability assessment to identify potential gaps or vulnerabilities in their systems.

TSA is also releasing guidance recommending that all other lower-risk surface transportation owners and operators voluntarily implement the same measures. Further, TSA recently updated its aviation security programs to require that airport and airline operators implement the first two provisions above. TSA intends to expand the requirements for the aviation sector and issue guidance to smaller operators. TSA also expects to initiate a rule-making process for certain surface transportation entities to increase their cybersecurity resiliency. These efforts are part of a series of steps to prioritize cybersecurity across DHS.

CSX Completes Acquisition of Pan Am Railways

CSX Completes Acquisition of Pan Am Railways

CSX Corp. announced it has completed the acquisition of Pan Am Railways, expanding its reach into the rapidly growing Northeast region of the country.

“We are excited to welcome Pan Am’s experienced railroaders into the CSX family and look forward to the improvements we will make together to this important rail network in New England, bringing benefits to all users of rail transportation in the Northeast region,” said president and chief executive officer, James M. Foote. “This acquisition demonstrates CSX’s growth strategy through efficient and reliable freight service and will provide sustainable and competitive transportation solutions to New England and beyond.”

Completion of this transaction comes six weeks after CSX received regulatory approval from the Surface Transportation Board. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Good Fences Trends driving perimeter Security Growth

Good Fences Trends driving perimeter Security Growth

$125 billion: That’s the approximate 2022 value of the global perimeter security industry, according to the market research firm Valuates (www.valuates.com). In its new report entitled on perimeter security market trends, the company is predicting this industry to experience a compound annual growth rate of 6.9% from now to 2028 – reaching an estimated value of just over $186 billion by then.

This growth is being driven by many trends, as the world’s operators of airports, rail and truck yards, factory and warehouse owners, and others with valuables to protect do their best to control access to their properties. To learn more about these trends, TSI magazine spoke to six companies in the perimeter security space. Here is what they told us.

A Range of Trends

When it comes to the perimeter security industry, “there are multiple trends occurring in the market today, from a significant increase in physical deterrent systems and heavy fencing and bollards, through to a higher uptake in the use of intelligent perimeter technologies,” said Dave Solly. He is value owner (product owner/manager) – access, detection & deterrence at Gallagher (https://security.gallagher.com/). Gallagher manufactures integrated and intelligent access control, perimeter, and intrusion detection solutions.

“Whilst crime is a key contributor in the rise of these trends, another factor is a growing awareness and acceptance that detection alone is not enough to protect sites,” Solly noted. This is why intelligent perimeter security technologies — which combine fence electrification with the ability to silently detect and alert companies to possible intruders while noticing the difference between them and wildlife — are catching on with airport, rail, and truck yard operators.

This growth is due to changing attitudes among customers. “For many years perimeter security technologies were chosen primarily by cost-conscious decisions, with many organizations opting to utilize basic detection technologies only,” said Solly. “However, in recent years, we have seen more and more sites shift to intelligent perimeter solutions that allow them to obtain detailed reporting and better site awareness.(As well) One of the key benefits of installing an intelligent perimeter system is that control room operators and security managers are trained on one application, with a single point for reporting on details such as fence voltage levels, operator use statistics, or specific zone alarm data. This not only saves time but also creates operational efficiencies and reduces cost.”

Advances in IT, cybersecurity and communications in combination with high resolution cameras, thermal imaging systems, vibration detection and other sensing technologies, plus retractable bollards and variable speed access gates, are all underpinning the trend towards highly flexible, responsive, and adaptable perimeter security systems, said Patrick O’Connor. He is director of business development at VMAG (www.vmagtech.com). They manufacture high-velocity magnetic gate operators. These systems use linear induction motors that employ magnetism rather than moving parts to open and close security gates at operator-specified speeds, an advance that is contributing to this trend.

“VMAG’s revolutionary design eliminates traditional motors, gears, chains, pinch wheels, hydraulics, fluids, and lubricants providing distinct advantages in performance with less environmental impact,” O’Connor told TSI magazine. “VMAG speed delivers immediate benefits for vehicle throughput and security, while the contactless magnetic drive provides reduced maintenance, repairs, and lower cost of ownership. Gate operators are not limited by weight or size of gate opening and may be specified for virtually any slide gate application, from single lane sally ports to specialized crash gates and large taxiways.”

Dori Ribak  VP of Marketing and Technology,  RBtec
Dori Ribak
VP of Marketing and Technology, RBtec

A further trend in perimeter security is for smaller facilities to adopt sophisticated levels of perimeter protection previously limited to large and very large properties. That’s the word from Dori Ribak, VP of marketing and technology at RBtec Perimeter Security Systems (www.RBtec.com), a manufacturer of perimeter security solutions with more than 5,000 installations in 54 countries.

“It was always known at airports and other large facilities that you need sophisticated perimeter security for obvious reasons,” said Ribak. “Now we’re seeing the same awareness demand at self-storage facilities, small train and truck yards and other commercial and industrial sites. So RBtec is implementing more and more of our defense protection solutions at smaller facilities to protect against burglaries and theft: Due to COVID and other pandemic-related issues, more people are breaking into those businesses and stealing.”

In the past, these targets either had no perimeter security at all or, at best, a CCTV video system that allowed the owners to watch their goods being stolen after the fact. Today, they are adding RBtec fence intrusion detection capabilities, such as the IRONCLAD Fence Alarm System that allows security companies to monitor what is going on at the fence line and alerts the owner or the monitoring company in real time. The data generated by these systems are monitored by security officers in real-time, so that they can assess and respond to intrusions as soon as they occur.

Yet another trend: Enhanced perimeter security is now being extended to temporarily-secured locations as well as permanent ones. “High security temporary fencing is a current trend we are fulfilling extensively,” said Russell Wells, global sales director at CLD Fencing Systems (www.cld-fencing.com). His company manufactures high security rigid mesh fencing and gate systems, which CLD Fencing Systems has been supplying to the aviation, data center, utilities and other markets for two decades. “Due to the expanding nature of these sites, there is constant risk of the existing security lines being breached during construction of new buildings and carpark expansions.”

Wells’ trend assessment is endorsed by Dennis Evers, owner of Battery Operated Barrier (www.batteryoperatefbarrier.com). This former police officer/chief invented fast-deployable, battery powered security barriers with swing arms after 9/11, when he saw the need for security forces to redirect suspect vehicles away from sensitive areas.

The Operational Command Centre for Merseyside Police in the UK is being protected by Secured by Design Fencing from CLD Fencing Systems and features their Ultimate Extra SR1 product. CLD image.
The Operational Command Centre for Merseyside Police in the UK is being protected by Secured by Design Fencing from CLD Fencing Systems and features their Ultimate Extra SR1 product. CLD image.

“A lot of the time, our battery-operated barriers are being used to provide perimeter security on construction sites,” Evers said. “Take highway construction: We have units where the truck drivers and site managers are the only ones with clickers, so they can get in and out easily while preventing unauthorized vehicles from entering. We also support access control using keypads, card readers, and RFID units that read the trucks and let them in and out automatically as they approach.”

One final trend to consider is the installation of advanced, modern perimeter security solutions to control vehicular access to buildings and facilities, such as Matador sliding bollards, Raptor retractable bollards, and Viper shallow mounted road blockers made by Heald (www.heald.uk.com). “The main challenges our customers face is in retrofitting effective security products in built environments, namely due to underground infrastructure,” said Heald Managing Director Debbie Heald. “We’re seeing products being developed, including by ourselves, requiring only an ultra-shallow mount that can withstand considerable weight and speed impact.”

CLD makes all types of security fencing, including this one used for a rugby pitch to protect fans and vehicles. CLD image.
CLD makes all types of security fencing, including this one used for a rugby pitch to protect fans and vehicles. CLD image.

Varying Customer Needs

The range of trends driving the perimeter security market are mirrored by the varying needs of the customers buying them. Ask vendors what their customers are looking for, and they’ll provide you with different, albeit complementary, answers.

According to RBtec’s Ribak, his lower-budget customers want perimeter security solutions that are cost effective and easy to install, yet deliver the same kind of sophisticated detection/deterrence features found in higher end systems. Meanwhile, big budget customers such as airports want their perimeter security systems to be better integrated to CCTV cameras and centralized control, with everything flowing into a single highly informative system that is simple to monitor and maintain.

“Airport security managers are tired of trying to maintain and monitor multiple systems at the same time, because they have to protect very large areas with large perimeters,” he said. “They’re trying to monitor everything from the same command and control. And therefore, they want to have all the alarms and detection management centralized into a single point of control.”

Larger clients also want perimeter security management systems that employ artificial intelligence (AI) to pre-filter and analyze alerts before passing them onto human operators. “AI connected to our acoustic detection sensors can be trained to identify and distinguish between the sounds of someone cutting the fence, climbing it, jumping onto the other side, and going onto the runway,” said Ribak.

Louvered fence panels like the ones shown above made by CLD, offer high security fencing made of galvanized steel, with screen from view built in. CLD image.
Louvered fence panels like the ones shown above made by CLD, offer high security fencing made of galvanized steel, with screen from view built in. CLD image.

Clients who buy Ever’s Battery Operated Barriers are seeking rapid deployable access control that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to install. “They’re looking for something that’s portable and affordable,” Evers said. “I had one client who previously had installed a regular gate that was designed to be conventionally powered. When they got the permit to lay the electrical cable to this location, he discovered that doing so was going to cost his company $100,000.”

When it comes to customer requests, Gallagher’s Solly is seeing a “significant increase” in the integration of perimeter detection technologies within an overall security system. The reason: “This approach allows sites to integrate multiple technologies for fast, effective, and most importantly, safe verification and validation of an alarm to allow an appropriate response to be coordinated,” he said.

Customers also want fewer false alarms, which Solly described as being “the biggest weakness of many perimeter solutions due to environmental conditions. Not only do false alarms increase operational costs, but they also waste staff resources and cause wide-spread inconvenience that can delay response times.”

To address this problem at facilities where wildlife and harsh weather conditions can trigger false alarms, Gallagher introduced the ‘Adaptive Thresholds feature’ to its perimeter security solutions. “This feature allows a site’s Monitored Pulse Fence System to seamlessly adapt to environmental changes which cause fluctuations in voltage on the fence line,” he said. “Through the application of Adaptive Thresholds, sites can reduce false alarms while still ensuring unsurpassed sensitivity for a highly secure perimeter.”

Products that can be fit in locations that have challenges but that can provide access to permitted vehicles with ease are proving popular.
Products that can be fit in locations that have challenges but that can provide access to permitted vehicles with ease are proving popular.

For CLD Fencing Systems’ Wells and Heald’s Heald, their customers are focused on perimeter security products that are easy to install virtually almost anywhere. “Rapidly deployable high security fencing that is foundation free, is a very common request, as well as radio transparent solutions,” said Wells. “Products that can be fit in locations that have challenges due to underground infrastructure, but that can provide access to permitted vehicles with ease, such as emergency responders, service and delivery vehicles are another,” Heald added.

Airport fencing and gates are a key part of the overall security plan and counter-terrorism initiative at airports around the world. Vmag image.
Airport fencing and gates are a key part of the overall security plan and counter-terrorism initiative at airports around the world. Vmag image.

Over at VMAG, “customers generally want the very latest technology and best solutions integrated and packaged with long-term support,” said O’Connor. But they are also seeking solutions to specific problems. For example, “tailgating and other breaches in gate security are a big problem for our customers,” he said. “Underlying factors, for most tailgating offenses, typically include impatient motorists combined with the limited performance of conventional gate operators that slow down vehicle processing.”

To cope with these problems, VMAG’s programmable speed control is able to eliminate “slow gates,” as O’Connor puts it. This removes the situation that motivates impatient drivers to tailgate each other.

Selection Advice

Having provided insights into perimeter security trends and customer needs, it seemed natural to ask these vendors what product selection advice they had for prospective customers. Again, they were happy to oblige.

Gallagher’s Dave Solly took a Big Picture approach in his advice. “When considering perimeter security and the right products to buy, people often refer to the 3 Ds – Deter, Detect, and Delay,” he said. “These 3 Ds are crucial in ensuring a site is effectively protected and providing an awareness of environmental factors like harsh weather and wildlife disturbances to help guide the deployment of an effective perimeter security solution.”

“A completely integrated perimeter and access control security solution can help to monitor internal theft and criminal activity such as a staff member deliberately loading the wrong goods onto the wrong truck, which can cause reputational damage and lost goods,” added Solly. “A connected security system, using a combination of perimeter and access control, enables a seamless experience whilst also maintaining a high level of security.”

Dave Solly, value owner - access, detection and deterrence at Gallagher says intelligent perimeter security technologies, which combine fence electrification with the ability to silently detect and alert companies to possible intruders while noticing the difference between them and wildlife, are catching on with airport, rail, and truck yard operators. Gallagher image.
Dave Solly, value owner – access, detection and deterrence at Gallagher says intelligent perimeter security technologies, which combine fence electrification with the ability to silently detect and alert companies to possible intruders while noticing the difference between them and wildlife, are catching on with airport, rail, and truck yard operators. Gallagher image.

VMAG’s Patrick O’Connor also takes a big picture approach to procuring perimeter security systems. “Identifying specific objectives, researching and identifying the best products to meet those objectives is fundamental,” he said. “Once the desired products/services are identified, a performance specification should be created to ensure the correct product(s) are acquired during the procurement process.”

“Equally important is researching companies to assess the quality of their installations and after-sales support,” he suggested. “Airports and other commercial/industrial customers are interested in quality products and solutions with long term support factored into the planning and purchase. (So) Education about the different products and systems available and due diligence researching the installation companies, or security integrators, representing and installing the product, is critical for meeting both initial expectations and maintaining long-term satisfaction.”

CLD Fencing Systems’ Russell Wells urges prospective customers to do their homework about perimeter security vendors before making any purchasing decisions. “Look to adopt solutions that have a security rating and come with test data and guarantees,” said Wells. “Ensure the products are selected from a reputable specialist that has served time within the sector, especially aviation. When selecting a product, ensure you have also thought about anti-climb toppings and access control, so that all elements are compatible and provide a seamless solution.”

Heald’s Debbie Heald recommends seeking the help of experts during this procurement process. “Work with specialists who can advise on the best type of products for your perimeter security needs,” she said. “Also, remember that regular maintenance of your security products is crucial to ensure they operate at maximum efficiency, especially for bollards with barriers that have moveable parts.”

Finally, RBtec’s Dori Ribak’s counsel was quick and to the point. “If someone tells you that a ‘one size fits all’ solution to perimeter security will work for you, don’t believe them,” he quipped. “They’re incorrect. It won’t. You need to find the solution that is uniquely right for your situation.”

11M: Lessons Learned from the Madrid Train Attacks

11M: Lessons Learned from the Madrid Train Attacks

Thirteen bombs were placed on four lines of the commuter train system in Madrid, Spain on March 11, 2004. When those devices exploded, nearly simultaneously, it created the largest terrorist attack in European history. More than 2000 people were injured and 192 people were killed. Whether knowingly or not, the event also created radical changes in the course of the country’s political path, as there was an election three days away.

Left, the iconic Atocha train station in Madrid was one of the sites of the 11M bombings that occurred March 11, 2004.  Above is the memorial built to honor the victims of the bombings.
Left, the iconic Atocha train station in Madrid was one of the sites of the 11M bombings that occurred March 11, 2004. Above is the memorial built to honor the victims of the bombings.

In the aftermath of the attack, there was confusion surrounding who carried out the attack. The ramifications of the event not only include the death and injuries of so many, but divided a nation, due complexities in politics, conspiracy theories, the media and more. The event has become known as 11M in Spain.

Initially, many assumed the domestic terror group ETA was responsible. ETA, which stands for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (Basque Homeland and Liberty), is a group of nationalists and separatists, in the Basque Country of northern Spain and southwestern France known for committing terrorist activities focused on gaining independence for the Basque region.

Exploded Train

Miscommunications and misunderstandings led to bad information being spread within the various government agencies who were striving to do their best to come to terms with searching for and helping the many wounded, finding the victims, securing the bombing sites and investigating the areas for clues to assist in catching the culprits.

Top image shows a badly damaged train as investigators comb through the wreckage for clues.  Lower image shows each of the four stations that was bombed, nearly simultaneously, and the number of bombs that exploded per train. Three additional bombs were found that did not detonate. 11M documentary image.
Top image shows a badly damaged train as investigators comb through the wreckage for clues. Lower image shows each of the four stations that was bombed, nearly simultaneously, and the number of bombs that exploded per train. Three additional bombs were found that did not detonate. 11M documentary image.

One year earlier, on March 20, 2003, the United States led a coalition of 30 countries into Iraq against Saddam Hussein. Spain was a member of the coalition and provided a force of 1,300 troops, according to a paper by William E. Baird Jr. MAJ, USAF. This was a hugely unpopular action in Spain and some public opinion polls suggested as many as 90 percent of the population of Spain opposed supporting the Iraq War with troops, Baird’s paper says.

What Happened?

At Madrid’s iconic Atocha Station that morning at 7:37am there was an explosion. Some managed to get out of the damaged train car, but as the crowds rushed for exits, two more bombs exploded. The third bomb reached those trying to get out of the station — on the platform.

At almost the same time, 7:38am, at El Pozo Station, witnesses reported a “flash and smoke” followed a “black cloud that…enveloped everything.” There was screaming: “What is this? What is this? It’s a bomb. It’s a bomb,” one survivor recounted. Then another bomb detonated.

There were also explosions at the Eugenia Station at 7:39am as well as Tellez Street Station at 7:39am. Soon, the magnitude of the tragedy became apparent. First responders began to arrive to assist the injured and take them to hospital. The windows in nearby houses were shattered.

People who lived nearby began throwing blankets to first responders through the shattered open windows, to cover the dead and wounded, according to news reports. Others ventured into the melee to offer help. After triaging many patients, one first responder said in an interview that a bystander asked what she could do and he responded, “Hold his hand and help him die peacefully.” Among the victims were students and workers commuting into the city for their jobs.

Investigation Begins, Assumptions are Made

It was still morning when the victims and injured were removed from the scene and the investigation began in earnest. “Then we began examining and carefully removing all evidence,” according to Juan Jesús Sánchez Manzano, the chief commissioner of the explosive’s unit of the National Police. They discovered more bombs that had not detonated. One at El Pozo Station which was safely deactivated, and another at Atocha Station which was allowed to explode as it was too unstable to manually defuse. In all, there were 13 bombs, ten of which detonated as the terrorists planned. See image this page.

According to María Ponte, criminal lawyer in the 11M trial, in the documentary “11M: Terror in Madrid,” “The use of Titadine was a rumor that spread in the hours immediately after the attacks. Titadine is a type of compressed dynamite manufactured in southern France. However, at that point, no one had been able to determine the type of explosive.” Titadine was ETA’s typical weapon. The rumor took off like wildfire. Many spread the inaccurate information that it was Titadine that had been used (and not Goma-2 ECO which was found later to be the explosive used).

Meanwhile Politicians will be Politicians

The government convened an emergency cabinet later the same day. “To our surprise, we found out that the people who were called to participate in the cabinet were people who had no experience at all with security or investigations and had more to do with the Popular Party,” said Iñaki Gabilondo who was a journalist and news anchor covering the story at the time. “What’s worse is the director of the national intelligence service wasn’t asked to join.”

“There were two meetings that morning,” said Jorge Dezcallar, chief of the National Intelligence Center. “One was at Montcloa [Palacio de Moncloa is the headquarters of the Ministry of the Presidency] and was led by the president of the government [José María Aznar].” And another at the ministry of the interior led by Minister Ángel Acebes, the country’s interior minister, who shortly thereafter announced, “There is no doubt ETA is responsible.” Meanwhile, José María Aznar, Prime Minister of Spain called the editors of the country’s largest newspapers. According to Gumersindo LaFuente, chief editor of El Mundo, President Aznar said he was certain ETA was behind the attacks.

Jesús Ceberio, chief editor of El País, at that time, said, “The president of the government said without any doubt he considered those responsible for the attacks to be ETA. I changed the wording of the headline from Terror Massacre in Madrid to ETA Massacre in Madrid after Aznar’s call. How could we not trust the word of the president of the government?”

But many were beginning to doubt ETA’s involvement. “It wasn’t ETA,” said Baltasar Garzón, magistrate of the national court in 2004. It wasn’t ETA’s modus operendi. “I can tell you at this moment, ETA doesn’t have enough people to carry out an attack of this size.” Questions began to arise about the type of explosive used as well, now that forensics were more involved.

Confusing reports began to fly back and forth between agencies, media and individuals. “The police, due to the MO, didn’t consider ETA almost from the beginning,” said Juan Del Olmo, investigative magistrate. And Mariano Rayon, chief police commissioner agreed. “I felt pretty uncomfortable because an attack of such magnitude was something that ETA, unless it was a faction trying to split from them, wasn’t interested in,” Rayon said.

Because of the election coming in just three days, there was intense pressure on the government to say something before the evidence could definitively prove anything. News reports seemed to imply that chaos and panic were being planted at the end of the election cycle. At the time, the station RETV was controlled by the national government — the government of the current controlling party of Aznar. The Spanish news followed the government line, saying ETA carried out the attack. The information the government was giving out was not being challenged by the media.

A massive protest of more than 11.4 million people — a quarter of Spain’s population — demonstrated across Spain on March 12, 2004, the day after the bombings. Still images this page from video news report in 11M documentary.
A massive protest of more than 11.4 million people — a quarter of Spain’s population — demonstrated across Spain on March 12, 2004, the day after the bombings. Still images this page from video news report in 11M documentary.

The interior minister again confirmed ETA as the perpetrator and Spain called on the UN to condemn the attacks in a statement. The security council was asked to specifically out ETA as the responsible party at the urging of the Spanish government. All of this seemed to be in an attempt to salvage the election for President Aznar, who had appeared to be a shoo-in up until that point.

Crucial Evidence Found

Then, an audio tape and detonators were found in a Renault Kangoo van parked outside a train station in Madrid around noon on the day of the attacks. The evidence found didn’t match up to what they expected to see in a vehicle owned by ETA. Explosives found in the van were made from Goma2 ECO, not Titadine. There was a discrepancy between what was being told to the public and what police were discovering.

“A van was found in Alcalá de Henares, and in the front seat we found seven detonating devices and also among other tapes we found one in Arabic containing Quran verses…” Acebes, the interior minister, later said. “This made me instruct our police forces and corps not to dismiss any line of investigation. I insisted our main line of investigation, the one the police and national guard was considering as essential, was that of the terrorist group ETA.”

At that point, CNN reported breaking news. “A letter supposedly from the terrorist organization al-Qaeda was sent to an Arabic newspaper in London and in it the group claims to be behind the attacks in Madrid,” the news agency reported. “Al-Qaeda justifies the attacks as part of old unsettled debts in what they call the Spanish Crusade,” said Professor Fernando Reina, director of the program on violent radicalization and global terrorism at the Elcano Royal Institute, in the 11M documentary.

Spanish TV news, however, stuck to the party line that ETA was responsible. That was just the first day.

More Evidence Found Day Two

Another backpack containing a phone, a sim card and an explosive device was found in the train wreckage. With that evidence, the police began to determine where the explosives, phone and sim card were purchased. Meanwhile, President Aznar, growing more fearful of losing the election in two days stated, “Does anyone believe after 30 years of terrorism in Spain and after facing an attack like yesterday’s, wouldn’t logically, reasonably, believe that that gang [ETA] might be behind it?” Because Aznar had supported the invasion of Iraq, the idea that al-Qaeda could have been behind the attack would have been damaging to him as most Spaniards had opposed it.

A backpack containing a phone, a sim card and an explosive device was found in the train wreckage. It proved crucial to tracking down the terrorists.
A backpack containing a phone, a sim card and an explosive device was found in the train wreckage. It proved crucial to tracking down the terrorists.

Washington D. C. Jumps In

The U. S. president, George Bush, visited the Spanish foreign ambassador in Washington. Bush offered to give an interview at the ambassador’s residence. Bush, the first lady, Laura Bush, Colin Powell and others attended the meeting. Spanish television did not broadcast the interview, saying they felt it wasn’t appropriate to link what had happened to President Bush because that led to Iraq.

“Bush held me back and asked if we could talk privately,” said Javier Rupérez, Spanish Ambassador to the U. S. “He asked me who we thought was behind this and I said we are getting the impression it’s ETA. Then he said, ‘My intelligence services say there’s a possibility it wasn’t ETA.’” I called Aznar to tell him, and I imagine that Aznar knew much more than I did that moment, right? He was already aware of the issue since a rumor mill had already started in Madrid,” the former ambassador said in the 11M documentary.

The Spanish People Demonstrate

Demonstration against terrorism took place the next day. It was a massive protest. More than 11.4 million people — a quarter of Spain’s population — demonstrated across Spain, it was reported later. Even members of the royal family, the Prince of Asturias and his sisters, Elena and Cristina, took part in the demonstration, according to Global Oneness, “Aftermath of the 11 March 2004 Madrid Train Bombings.”

As law enforcement closed in on the terrorist group in this apartment building, the terrorists detonated a bomb that used the same explosives that had been used in the train bombings. GEO Agent, Javier Torronteras, did not survive the blast. The remains of seven terrorists were recovered from the rubble. Still from video from 11M documentary.
As law enforcement closed in on the terrorist group in this apartment building, the terrorists detonated a bomb that used the same explosives that had been used in the train bombings. GEO Agent, Javier Torronteras, did not survive the blast. The remains of seven terrorists were recovered from the rubble. Still from video from 11M documentary.

Disbelief Grows

Eduardo Zaplana government spokesman said in a press conference at the time that some people wanted to dismiss the possibility that ETA was responsible. But as the investigation went on, the evidence began to point towards al-Qaeda and not ETA. The sim cards found in the vehicle and backpacks were traced back to a store owned by a man named Jamal Zougam, a person with a jihadist background.

“No Spaniard can be surprised that the priority is the terrorist organization that’s spent 30 years attacking Spain causing nearly 900 deaths,” Minister Acebes said. He also reiterated that he hadn’t heard the al-Qaeda angle from anyone at the law enforcement agencies which emphasizes the disconnect between the government and the boots on the ground agencies working to determine the perpetrators.

Then five people were arrested in conjunction with the phone found in the backpack. They were from Mahgreb in Northern Africa. National Intelligence Center head, Jorge Dezcallar, who had been excluded from earlier meetings was then abruptly asked to make a statement blaming the attacks on ETA. Dezcallar said it was clear the “Islamist terrorist was the way to go.” He implied the Aznar team already knew blaming ETA was useless. He said he felt bad, manipulated and wanted to quit right then. “But if I had resigned, it would have directly caused [Aznar] to lose and that was a burden I didn’t want to carry either. The election was going ahead with officials saying if it was postponed, it was tantamount to giving in to terrorism.” Then ETA made a statement denouncing the attacks and saying they were not responsible.

Aznar’s political opposition seized the moment to use that as ammunition to derail the Aznar’s campaign. The Spanish left wing criticized the government’s response to the attacks. It was one of the first times protesters were organized by the use of cell phones and social media. The opposition party, PSOE, a socialist party, said, “The Spanish citizens deserve a government that doesn’t lie to them.”

Sunday — Election Day

The turnouts for the elections were much higher than normal. Victory went to PSOE and José Zapatero became Spanish prime minister three days later. Shortly thereafter he gave orders to bring the Spanish troops in Iraq home. Some thought it appeared to look as though the terrorists got what they wanted.

The former president, Aznar said, “What was the goal of the attacks — a change in government? Well, they achieved their objective.”

Were election outcomes the goal? There is evidence that points to the date being chosen prior to the election date being set and therefore unrelated.

Two Weeks After Attacks

“Once we had all the information about where the cell phone sim cards had been bought, we were able to locate the phones through the cellular network,” Mariano Rayón, chief police commissioner central external intelligence unit said. “And they were near a house we were already aware of where the explosives were made near Morata de Tajuña, a town to the southeast of Madrid. All the explosives and the detonators had all come from the same mine — a place in Asturias on the northern coast of Spain. The linking piece was a man named Rafa Zouhier who knew the perpetrators and the people at the mine in Asturias.”

Another Attempted Bombing

Twenty-two days later there was an attempt to put another bomb on the AVE Line from Seville to Madrid. Security guards patrolling near the AVE rail lines happened to see a vehicle and individuals acting suspiciously. The civil guard was called. The suspects realized they had been spotted and left. They had cut the fence and twelve kg of explosives and detonators were placed under the rail and hidden with rocks. It would only have required detonating manually, as the train passed.

The General Information Precinct believed the perpetrators of the 11M attacks were all from a jihadist cell that were from Morocco. One, Said Berraj, had been to Afghanistan and returned. It is believed that he was the one who taught the group how to make the explosive devices.

While investigating all the phone numbers, a map was made with points of contact with people who could have been involved in the attacks. One number stood out to investigators. It was an incoming call from a Spaniard that had rented an apartment to a group of who had given him their foreign number and the name of Mohammed Belhadj. This led investigators to the terrorists’ hideout.

Abdelmajid Bouchar was one of the people in the apartment and when he went down to take out the trash he noticed a vehicle from the Exterior Information Central unit. He ran. They were unable to apprehend him, even after a chase. From the apartment, shooting began. It was later confirmed the group had made calls to their families to say goodbye. The area was sealed off. The group in the apartment detonated explosives as officers came close and forced entry into it.

One GEO Agent, Javier Torronteras, did not survive the blast. The remains of seven terrorists were also recovered from the rubble. In a bizarre conclusion, the body of Agent Torronteras was desecrated — removed from the grave burned in what police believe was an act of revenge by individuals linked to the terrorist cell.

A parliamentary inquiry about the government’s actions took place three months after the attack. NIC Head Dezcallar said he was not given the information needed because he was not included in the investigation. “There were no meetings in which we participated and in which investigations were assigned or distributed to us,” he said during the investigation.

Madness

“What Madness took over the country in that moment?” journalist Iñaki Gabilondo later asked. “Insults were hurled at the expense of the victims. The 11M commission served no purpose. A very bitter controversy between the political forces that were running against each other in the election. This divided the country more than ever. Then the new government came in and it all changed.”

The divided country could not let go of the ETA possibility — newspapers began finding links to possible alternate theories which almost always included a link to ETA and the Spanish Secret service working for the Socialist Party. That conspiracy theory seemed to grow roots and the papers continued to fuel the flames of conspiracy between ETA and terrorists.

ETA leaders announced in 2018 that the group decided to cease armed activity. “It is time to look at the future with hope. It is also time to act with responsibility and courage,”  they said in a video in 2011. The still above is from that video. El Diario image.
ETA leaders announced in 2018 that the group decided to cease armed activity. “It is time to look at the future with hope. It is also time to act with responsibility and courage,” they said in a video in 2011. The still above is from that video. El Diario image.

Chief prosecutor of the 11M Commission Zaragoza said emphatically there was never anything linking ETA with the jihadists. Some people don’t feel they know the real truth about the attacks, even to this day. Some officials were accused of being part of a conspiracy and even accused of participating in the attacks. One of those accused was Rodolfo Ruiz, whose wife took her own life a year after the 11M trial.

The Truth Will Out

Experts say an al-Qaeda cell was formed in Spain in 1994 and a man named Abu Dahdah was put in charge. He funneled money from the mosque in Spain to London and Afghanistan. Bruce Riedel, former CIA counter terrorism expert and White House advisor, called the group in Spain, “the most important supporting network to the 9/11 attack outside of Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Other sources say the attack was planned long before Spain’s decision was made to support and participate in the invasion of Iraq. The Bush administration didn’t seem to mind that blame for the attack initially went to the local group, ETA.

A trial started in February of 2007, lasted more than six months. Six hundred witnesses were called and 52 lawyers participated. It was technically complicated involving many defendants with multiple charges. In the end Antonio Ivan Reis, Antonio Toro and Sergio Alvarez Sanchez were convicted of distribution of explosives. Rafa Zouhier, Nasreddine Bousbaa and Mahmoud Slimane were convicted of aiding a terrorist organization. Nine others were convicted of belonging to a terror organization. Jose Milio Suarez Trashorras was convicted of being an accessory to 192 counts of terrorist murder. Jamal Zougam, Othman El Gnaoui and Rabei Osman were convicted of 191 counts of terrorist murder. Six others were convicted in other countries or dead or believed dead.

Although the mastermind behind the attacks was not determined at the trial, Amer Azizi was connected to the operation and presumed to be the leader. Azizi was later killed in a drone attack in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2005. This was not publicly known until 2009.

ETA Stands Down

One positive result that may be attributable to these events is that ETA, in a letter to El Diario published on May 2, 2018, formally announced that it had “completely dissolved all its structures and ended its political initiative” on April 16, 2018. In a video released earlier, three masked ETA leaders announced that the group “has decided the definitive cessation of its armed activity. It is time to look at the future with hope. It is also time to act with responsibility and courage,” they added, raising their fists in the air at the end of the video.

There are still many unknowns about the events of 11M, but one thing is certain. The loss of 192 human lives and the damage to the survivors — 2000 of whom were injured — and their families, was devastating and had a profound impact on the country of Spain.

Travel In and Around Afghanistan

Travel In and Around Afghanistan

Philip Watkins mastered in Terrorism and Security studies at the University of Salford and studied Political Violence at the University of Saint Andrews. He is the current head of the Eigenrac Intelligence Management Service (IMS) line and operates in the lead analyst role for Afghan affairs where he is recognized as a subject matter expert on security operations in Kabul and an experienced consultant on the wider Afghan theatre. Philip has over 16 years’ experience in Afghanistan in military, law enforcement and diplomatic capacities.

His current remit sees him assisting governments, corporates and INGO’s that wish to operate in complex environments. This is done by providing real time ground truth Intelligence reporting gathered and processed from a variety of open and privileged sources. Eigenrac’ s IMS products ultimately act as a force multiplier to their clients enabling effective security mitigation strategies to be set and managed, underpinned by Intelligence.

Go to www.eigenrac.com to learn more.

Afghanistan provides access to trade along north-south and east-west corridors through Central Asia. Three of six corridors for the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Program, which supports investments in roads, energy, and trade traverse Afghanistan. Roads and rail links connect Afghanistan to Asia’s four different regions. Transport sector investments increase the impact of other sectors in Afghanistan, namely, energy and agriculture, by linking markets, products, and people. The development of road and rail infrastructure is crucial for supporting mine extraction industries and using the mineral wealth of the country to spur economic development. This overview examines Afghanistan’s transportation network from both economic and security standpoints, and observes a post-Islamic Republic Afghanistan, now under the care of the Islamic Emirate (IEA). It is noteworthy that the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and the US’s Department of State advise against all travel to Afghanistan due to the volatile security situation and unreliable border crossings.

Transport sector overview

Afghanistan’s transportation system is comprised of inland waterways, air, rail, and road transport modes. Inland waterways are limited to the Amu Darya and its tributaries with the only formal operating inland port at Shirkhan Bandar. There are some 60 airports and airfields spread across the country including two international and 22 domestic airports, which previously met International Civil Aviation Organization class 4 categorization standards. Desp≠≠ite transportation links progress resulting largely from infrastructure interventions, the transport network remains incomplete. With respect to private sector participation in transport sector development, the security of contractors and consultants on remote project sites remains problematic. Most transactions fail to attract the interest of top-quality consultants and contractors, largely due to the security situation and lack of additional margin or profit incentive to offset perceived additional risk. Throughout previous administrations, this has led to a lack of competition, higher-than-expected bid prices and financing gaps, and low-quality products from service providers. Stakeholder consultation, especially with local communities, has been inadequate. The result is that some have not “bought into” the projects or welcomed foreign contractors; a problem the new administration may police in an alternative manner to previous administrations. This issue is undoubtedly compounding existing problems at international border and port entry points in Afghanistan.

Sea

The Shah Abu Nasr Farahi port has recently, for the first time, been used to transit goods from Iran and other Asian countries. The first transit trucks carrying goods from Indonesia and Malaysia entered Afghanistan through Iran.

Land: Rail and Road

Until the last decade, the total length of railways was a mere 24.6km, comprising cross-border extensions from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to transshipment yards in Towraghondi and Kheyrabad. In the last decade, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) financed Hairatan to Mazar-e-Sharif rail link (75km) was completed; the first new railway in Afghanistan in over 100 years. Rail services at Hairatan average 4-5 trains typically comprising 30 wagons each, hauling humanitarian aid and bulk commodities, particularly fuel.

Boeing 737 departing from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Boeing 737 departing from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Roads are the principal means of transport in Afghanistan which has a road network comprising of approximately 3,300km of regional highways, 4,900km of national highways, 9,700km of provincial roads, 17,000–23,000km of rural roads, and about 3,000km of urban roads, including 1,060km in Kabul. In 2014, the ADB reported Afghanistan’s road networks were at an estimated density of only 4km per 1000km2, a density far below the completeness levels achieved by its neighbours. Furthermore only 7% of the roads are paved. The regional highway network consists of the 2,300km Ring Road connecting Afghanistan’s major regional centers (Herat, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif, Maimana, and Sheberghan) with Kabul, and about 700km of cross-border roads linking the Ring Road to neighboring countries, contributing to economic growth and national integration. Demand for road transport is increasing evidenced by the supply of registered vehicles. The vehicle population is increasing rapidly with an annual average growth of 23% for cars, 15% for trucks, and 48% for motorcycles.

Air

The air sector is arguably the most important sector currently as the IEA vie for international recognition and external support. The Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation (MoTCA) signed a contract for aviation security services for four Afghan airports – Kabul, Mazar-e Sharif, Kandahar, and Herat – with the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) GAAC company. The UAE will restart issuing visas to Afghans as part of the deal. The contract agrees that the UAE company will recruit former employees of the MoTCA. The GAAC company is tasked with the security screening of passengers and ground services. On 27 May 22, the first air cargo flight arrived in Kabul following the UAE deal. The following week, former head of MoTCA, Hassan Mubarak Azizi, returned to Afghanistan from Turkey as part of the IEA’s efforts to repatriate exiled professionals.

In early June 22, Afghan airlines Ariana and Kam Air decided to resume operations to Islamabad by expressing interest to do so to the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA). The PCAA confirmed permissions will be granted once PCAA requirements are fulfilled. At present, Pakistan International Airlines operates chartered flights between Kabul and Islamabad, reportedly charging $1,300 per passenger. The IEA reported Kabul’s airport is now operational thanks to the technical support provided by Qatar, with Kam Air flights from Istanbul to Kabul also operational with tickets reportedly costing circa $480 (US) each way.

Multiple reports circulated in the media recently over the serviceability of aviation radar systems in Afghanistan, prompting Afghan air operations to Asia and Europe to be directed and handled from Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad until 20 August 22. Referring to the issues, MoTCA dismissed reports that Pakistan has access to Afghanistan’s airspace due to “unsolved technical issues” claiming it is common in international aviation to have cooperation with neighbouring states. The IEA claimed their aviation radar systems remain active with circa thirty passenger airplanes transiting Afghanistan daily, with a further 50 to 80 flights using Afghan airspace. MoTCA asserts it collects a 250 million afghanis in monthly revenues from domestic flights and $700 (US) for each flight using Afghan airspace.

Tank cars shown at Hairatan, Kaldar district, Balkh Province, Afghanistan, one of the major transport, shipping, import/export centers in Afghanistan.
Tank cars shown at Hairatan, Kaldar district, Balkh Province, Afghanistan, one of the major transport, shipping, import/export centers in Afghanistan.

International borders

The most efficient way to examine borders under the current administration is to observe the Pakistani border, the Iranian border, and the Central Asian borders, with Turkmenistan as an exception, individually. The IEA is beset on all sides by difficult borders and the group’s inability to bring them under control may serve to complicate relations with regional neighbours.

Pakistan

Pakistan announced it will open two new border crossings to accommodate the volume of Afghan exports to Pakistan. The Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment (ACCI) pressed Islamabad on the requirement to improve the infrastructure at five border crossings, stressing that trade between Kabul and Islamabad had reduced compared to past years. Relations strained recently due to ongoing disputes between Pakistan and the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group, and Pakistan’s intentions to erect fencing along the Durand Line, a notion Afghans for generations have been opposed to. Pakistan continues to launch military strikes into Afghan territory to target anti-Pakistan militant groups; Kunar, Nangarhar, Khost, Kandahar and Helmand have all reported such activities. However, Pakistan did demonstrate compassion towards Afghanistan under Imran Khan’s administration by striking a humanitarian deal with India to facilitate the delivery of Indian wheat to Afghanistan through the Torkham border. Pakistan also agreed to permit road convoys of evacuees as late as March 22 following the cancellation of US evacuation flights to Qatar on 1 December 21. The IEA, however, are releasing frequent reports of interdictions of illicit smuggling of abandoned NATO weaponry, precious metals and minerals, and illegal crops into Pakistan via porous land borders.

Iranian border

At the Iran border, the IEA face a less ideologically aligned government. Considering recent tensions, Iran has increased its military presence along the border. In late April 22, the Islam Qala border crossing between Afghanistan and Iran was closed following a dispute between IEA and Iranian border guards, reportedly over a road the IEA intended to build. The border reopened a day later but tensions remain. Since then, the National Standards Authority returned twelve tankers to Iran for carrying low-quality imported oil. IEA officials in Nimroz province stated low-quality oil was not permitted to be introduced to Afghan markets.

Central Asian states

Central Asian states view the IEA as the only option for preventing ISKP from fulfilling its regional ambitions and for achieving the kind of stability necessary for economic prosperity. These states are likely to maintain a calm and diplomatic approach to their borders with Afghanistan. Following assistance calls to Russia, the northern states, especially Tajikistan, maintain a Russian security presence at border crossing points and vulnerable areas. Concerns deepened in April 22 when Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), fired 10 rockets at an Uzbek military base in Termez, and an undetermined number of rockets from Takhar’s Khawaja Ghar district toward unspecified military targets in Tajikistan. This, coupled with increased hostilities between the IEA’s security forces and domestic Afghan resistance forces in Takhar and Badakhshan, the Tajik border guard increased its alert posture.