Tape: al Qaeda Caused Spain Attack
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The tape, along with the arrest of three Moroccan and two Indian suspects, provide the strongest indication yet of a possible Islamic link to the attack on one of Washington's staunchest allies in Iraq. The Spanish government, however, said it could not confirm the tape's authenticity.
Interior Minister Angel Acebes said the tape was made by a man identifying himself as the military spokesman of al Qaeda in Europe.
"We declare our responsibility for what happened in Madrid exactly two-and-a-half years after the attacks on New York and Washington," the message said, according to a government translation of the tape, which was made in Arabic.
"It is a response to your collaboration with the criminals Bush and his allies."
Speaking at a hastily called post-midnight news conference at the interior ministry, Acebes said authorities could not confirm the claim was genuine. He said the videotape was discovered after an Arabic-speaking man called a Madrid TV station and said where it could be found.
The man on the videotape wore Arabic dress and spoke with a Moroccan accent, Acebes said. The speaker concluded by saying: "This is a statement by the military spokesman for al Qaeda in Europe, Abu Dujan al Afghani."
Acebes said the man was not known to law enforcement authorities in Spain, and that they were checking the tape's authenticity.
The man threatened further attacks in the video.
"This is a response to the crimes that you caused in the world, and specifically in Iraq and Afghanistan, and there will be more if God wills it," the man said, according to the Spanish government's translation.
A London-based Arabic newspaper had earlier received a claim of responsibility in al Qaeda's name, but the government has been reluctant to blame the Islamic group, saying the Basque separatist group ETA was also a suspect. ETA denied responsibility.
Earlier, Spain arrested three Moroccans and two Indians in connection with the train bombings.
The announcement of the arrests came just hours before polls were to open Sunday in general elections weighed down by increasingly politicized debate over who carried out Europe's second-deadliest terrorist assault in 15 years.
The arrests came amid opposition charges that the government, which had blamed Basque separatists for the bombings, was concealing details of the investigation into Spain's worst terror attack.
Opposition members say Islamic militants targeted Spain because of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's support for the U.S.-led war in Iraq. They believe Aznar's government is trying to downplay that possibility to improve its chances in the election.
A demonstration in Madrid drew a crowd of 5,000 protesters outside the ruling party headquarters who held up signs saying, "Paz" - or "peace" in Spanish - and "No more cover-up."
One banner read: "Aznar, because of you we all pay."
"Maybe now the truth will come out," Fernando Hernandez, a college student, said after hearing about the arrests. "All we want is the truth."
CBS News Correspondent Allen Pizzey says one effect of the bombings on the elections is expected to be a higher turnout than usual -- "people using their vote not just to choose a new government, but also as an act of defiance against terrorism."
Acebes, speaking at news conference, said the five suspects were all detained around Madrid and that one "could be related to Moroccan extremist groups." Two Spanish citizens of Indian origin also were being questioned, but were not expected to be arrested.
The five were arrested in connection with a cell phone inside an explosives-packed gym bag found on one of the four bombed rush-hour trains, the minister said. The attacks killed 200 people and injured 1,500.
Spain was a target of Moroccan terrorism last year, with its citizens among 33 people killed in suicide bombings in Casablanca at a Spanish restaurant and Jewish targets. Twelve suicide bombers also died.
Before the arrests were announced, police had said Saturday that they were hunting for three men seen wearing ski masks and carrying backpacks toward the rail line where the trains were bombed.
The government also said autopsies conducted so far on victims showed no signs of suicide bombings - a hallmark of Islamic militants.
Mourners began burying and cremating the 200 victims on Saturday, filling Madrid's two main funeral parlors beyond capacity. Sports facilities also were housing coffins.
Madrid's biggest funeral home, Tanatorio Sur, was so overcrowded that some coffins were placed in a room normally used for staff meetings. Outside, hearses carried coffins in and out all morning.
As a cold drizzle fell on Madrid, what would normally be a day of leisure and reflection before the parliamentary elections instead brought more anguish and mourning.
The massive police hunt for the bombers was focusing in part on a stolen van found with seven detonators and an audiotape of verses from the Quran. A witness told Associated Press Television News he saw three suspicious men go from the vehicle to a station where three of the four bombed trains originated.
The men's faces were covered but "it wasn't cold ... I thought it was very strange," said the man, who did not want to be named. "They went into the train station ... I tried to follow one of them but I couldn't because he was very fast."
Government suspicions had fallen heaviest on ETA, an armed Basque group that has killed more than 800 people in a four-decade campaign of bombings and assassinations to carve out an independent homeland in northern Spain.
"I have a moral conviction that it was them," Popular Party candidate Mariano Rajoy, picked by Aznar as his successor as prime minister, told the daily El Mundo.
Rajoy was 3-5 percentage points ahead of Socialist candidate Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in opinion polls before they were stopped; the blasts came in the last week of campaigning.
Spain's spy chief, Jorge Dezcallar, quickly denied a radio report that said intelligence agents were "99 percent sure" that Islamic elements, not Basque separatists, were responsible.
Broadcaster Cadena Ser, which is close the opposition Socialist Party, cited sources at the national CNI intelligence agency as saying agents think a 10-15 member cell placed the bombs on the trains and may now have fled the country.
But Dezcallar, a government appointee, told the national news agency Efe that agents do not favor one line of investigation over another.
The finger of blame is politically loaded because of Aznar's support of the U.S.-led campaign that ousted Saddam Hussein. Any al Qaeda involvement in the Madrid bombings could play into the hands of Aznar critics who opposed sending 1,300 peacekeepers to Iraq.
"If it was al Qaeda, this was a reprisal for sending troops to Iraq, where we have no business being," said Damian Garcia, whose 86-year-old father died in the bombings.
The death of a man in a hospital overnight pushed the toll up to 200 Saturday. Of the 1,511 injured, 266 remained hospitalized - with 17 in critical condition.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, only the Bali bombing in Indonesia in October 2002 was deadlier, with 202 people dead.
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