- MADRID -- Al-Qa'eda claimed
responsibility for the Madrid train bombs atrocity late last night as Spanish
police arrested five suspects in the hunt for those responsible for the
deaths of 200 train travellers.
- Spain's interior minister, Angel Acebes, said that an
Arab-language video tape - which has yet to be authenticated - had been
located in which the attacks were claimed on behalf of al-Qa'eda by Osama
bin Laden's military spokesman in Europe.
- "A man dressed like an Arab [and speaking] Arabic
with a Moroccan accent claimed responsibility," said Mr Acebes.
- In a rough translation from the Spanish, the tape said:
"We declare our responsiblity for what has happened."
- It cited the reason for the attacks as the Spanish Government's
collaboration "with the criminal [George W] Bush and his allies .
. . this is a response to crimes that you have committed in the world,
specifically in Iraq and Afghanistan and there will be more God willing.
You love life and we love death, the blood will go on and on."
- Three Moroccans and two Indians were held in Madrid after
a mobile telephone configured in Arabic text was found in a sports bag
packed with explosives. It was recovered from a commuter train blown up
in Thursday's blasts.
- Mr Acebes said the suspects were traced using mobile
telephone records. They were being questioned, along with two Spaniards
of Indian extraction. "This is a very good line of inquiry,"
he said. "Things are advancing in the right direction. All of them
[are] suspected of involvement in the sale and falsification of the mobiles
that were found in the bag which failed to explode."
- He refused to say whether the arrests pointed towards
involvement by Islamic extremists, but this new development appeared to
support the suspicions of Spanish military intelligence officers that al-Qa'eda
terrorists were behind the blasts, which claimed another victim yesterday.
- Mr Acebes had earlier declared that Eta, the Basque separatist
group, was the government's prime suspect, but intelligence officials said
that it was "inconceivable" that Eta was capable of carrying
out the attacks - a view increasingly shared by British politicians. Last
night, one Cabinet minister told The Telegraph: "On Friday, we were
sure that it was Eta. But in the past 24 hours there has been a significant
shift towards al-Qa'eda."
- A senior British intelligence official said that the
attacks bore the hallmark of al-Qa'eda rather than Eta. "In the past,
Eta has always given warnings to avoid significant civilian casualties,"
he said. "This did not happen in Madrid."
- The bag that provided the police with vital clues is
believed to have been taken from the devastated train during the rescue
effort and piled up with abandoned luggage after the blasts.
- Station attendants were alerted when a mobile phone alarm
went off in the bag. It had been set for 7.39pm, rather than 7.39am as
the bombers intended. The 10 bombs that did go off were all detonated by
mobile phone timers.
- It is believed the mobile in the bag has been linked
to another telephone found in a stolen Renault van parked in Alcala, from
where the doomed trains left for Madrid. The police were suspicious because
the van contained detonators and a tape of Koranic verses.
- A witness was reported to have seen three masked men
wearing backpacks leaving the van. They are said to have been identified
by police on station CCTV.
- Officials from Spain's National Intelligence Centre (CNI)
said their organisation was certain it knew the affiliation of the terrorists
after the surviving backpack was found to contain explosives not normally
used by Eta.
- The timing of the tape's release will cause maximum uncertainty
among voters in today's general election.
- Jose Maria Aznar, the prime minister, had stuck to claims
of Eta involvement, hoping that it would earn him voter support. Mr Aznar
feared that if it emerged that al-Qa'eda was responsible, he would be blamed
for provoking the atrocity because of his support for Britain and America
during last year's war in Iraq. The invasion was very unpopular with the
Spanish public, with thousands demonstrating against it. Last night, riot
police confronted 5,000 demonstrators outside the headquarters of the ruling
Popular Party in Madrid, demanding that the government clarify who was
behind the attacks. "Who did it?" they chanted. "Before
we vote, we want the truth."
- Morocco's communications minister, Nabil Benabdellah,
said that Moroccan security officials would travel to Madrid today to help
with the investigation.
- Mr Acebes said some of those arrested might have links
to Moroccan militants, but it was too early to say for sure. Last May,
the Moroccan city of Casablanca came under a co-ordinated al-Qa'eda attack
in which 41 people died in five synchronised blasts. The suicide bombers
carried explosive-filled backpacks and one of their principal targets was
a Spanish cultural centre where four Spaniards died.
- In an audiotape released last October, Osama bin Laden
warned that al-Qa'eda might retaliate against Spain for its support of
the war in Iraq. Since the September 11 attacks in America, more than a
dozen al-Qa'eda suspects have been detained in Spain.
- A Norwegian intelligence unit said yesterday that it
had found a document on an Arabic-language website in which the Spanish
elections were recommended as an opportunity for attack. "Spain can
stand a maximum of two or three attacks before they will withdraw from
Iraq," it said.
- Tony Blair yesterday insisted the West would "not
show fear" at the threat of further terrorist attacks. "We must
be prepared for them to strike whenever and however they can," he
told a Labour Party conference in Manchester, "but let the message
go out from Spain, from Britain, from the free world - in our grief we
do not show fear."
- © Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2004.