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Alleged Al Qaeda Video Heaps Pressure on Spanish Government

DW Staff (nda)March 14, 2004

An alleged al Qaeda video claiming responsibility for Thursday's terror attacks in Madrid has been found by police. Spain's ruling Popular Party now faces growing anger from people demanding the truth about the bombings.

Combined with the written statement (photo) released on Thursday, the video adds weight to the claim of al Qaeda.Image: AP

The discovery of an alleged videotape suggesting al Qaeda was behind Thursday's attacks in Spain has heaped pressure on the incumbent Popular Party government as millions of Spaniards go to the polls in Sundays parliamentary elections.

The videotape features a man calling himself Abu Dujan al-Afgani and claiming to be al Qaeda's military spokesman in Europe. He speaks Arabic with a Moroccan accent and claims the attacks which killed 200 people in Madrid were revenge for Spain's "collaboration with the criminals Bush and his allies", according to Angel Acebes, the Spanish interior minister.

The man mentions Iraq and Afghanistan in particular and warns that more violence is to come if "injustices" against the Arab world do not come to an end. "You want life and we want death," the man reportedly says. Police also revealed that the tape was found during a search following an anonymous tip-off to a Madrid broadcaster.

People say government to quick to blame ETA

The tape has yet to be verified as authentic but already it is causing a backlash against the government which some Spaniards are accusing of being too quick to blame the Basque separatist movement ETA in the immediate wake of the attacks.

If the tape is proved to be the real thing and that radical Islamic extremists affiliated with al Qaeda were responsible for the bombings, it could prove very damaging to a party whose former leader Jose Maria Aznar aligned Spain with the United States and Britain on Iraq in the face of major opposition. The Spanish government backed the US-led invasion last year despite polls showing 90 percent opposition to it from the Spanish public.

Basque-Islamic collaboration not ruled out

Meanwhile, ETA has still not been ruled out of the investigation. According to Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio, the Basque separatist group is still a strong suspect and that Spanish police were not ruling out other possibilities, including a possible collaboration between ETA and al Qaeda. "I would say that anything is possible in this dark, dark world of terrorists," Palacio said in an interview on British television on Sunday.

Five held on suspicion of involvement

The police investigation into the attacks has lead to five men with suspected links with extremist Moroccan groups being held, the Spanish interior minister told reporters on Saturday, but he added that it was still too early to confirm this.

The men were arrested in connection with the sale and falsification of a mobile phone and SIM card found by police near one of the bomb blasts on Thursday. The phone was inside a bag containing one of the bombs which failed to explode.