TOPICS > Politics

Spain Arrests More Suspects in Madrid Train Blasts

BY Admin  April 5, 2004 at 3:00 PM EST

The developments came amid reports that al-Qaida has threatened to turn Spain “into an inferno” if the country does not end its support of the United States.

Two suspects were arrested Saturday in a Madrid suburb and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on the Moroccan coast, bringing the total number of those detained in connection to the train bombings to 17. Authorities released no details on the suspects or what role they played in the attacks.

Interior Minister Angel Acebes, meanwhile, has confirmed that at least three leading suspects in the attacks — alleged ringleader Sarhane Ben Abdelmajid Fakhet, known as “the Tunisian,” Jamal Ahmidan and Moroccan Abdennabi Kounjaa — were among those who blew themselves up Saturday as police stormed their apartment building.

“The core of the group that carried out the attacks is either arrested or dead in yesterday’s collective suicide, including the head of the operative commando” unit, Acebes said at a news conference on Sunday.

A fourth suspect, who has not been identified, was wearing a belt loaded with 4.5 pounds of dynamite, Acebes said, The Washington Post reported.

About 200 copper detonators and 22 pounds of Goma 2 ECO explosives, similar to those used on March 11, were found in the apartment in Leganes, south of Madrid.

Special forces police officer Javier Torrontera was killed and 15 police officers were wounded in the suicide blast.

The events Saturday took place a day after a bomb was found and defused on a high-speed train rail linking Madrid to Seville. The detonator and explosives used in the bomb were the same as those used in the March 11 blasts, which also wounded an estimated 1,800.

On Monday, the conservative newspaper ABC said it received a fax hours before the Saturday suicide explosion from the same al-Qaida group that claimed responsibility for the attack in March and the bomb planting on the high-speed railway line.

The letter said Spain had until April 4 to halt support of the United States and withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.

“If our demands are not satisfied, we declare war and we swear by Almighty God that we will turn your country into an inferno and we will make blood flow like rivers,” the letter said, according to an ABC Spanish translation, Reuters reported.

Investigators are still analyzing the letter, an Interior Ministry spokesman said Monday.

Incoming Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose party won the general election held three days after the March 11 train bombings, has promised to withdraw Spain’s 1,300 troops from Iraq unless the United Nations takes charge by June 30.