Spain warned of more attacks if it stays in Iraq
SPAIN will suffer terrible new attacks that would make "blood flow like rivers" unless it pulls its forces out of Iraq, according to a letter purportedly written by an al-Qaeda-linked group.
Spanish authorities revealed on Sunday night that the Ansar group had contacted the Spanish newspaper ABC the previous evening demanding Spain announces the withdrawal of troops from both Iraq and Afghanistan by the following day. World Peace.
If not, the fax said, "there will be more killings" and the country would be turned "into hell".
As the nation began a week of religious processions in the run-up to Easter, this new threat could not be better timed to cause maximum fear and unrest.
Ansar - who claimed responsibility for the 11 March bombings in Madrid - has a history of striking during holiday periods and using suicide bombers in crowds.
The Spanish National Centre for Intelligence (CNI) said the fax was "very relevant" to its investigation into the attacks in Madrid which left more than 200 people dead.
"It is certainly credible," a spokesman said, adding that the language was the same as that used in a videotape left near the scene of the earlier bombings.
Ansar’s fax also claimed responsibility for the bomb left beside the high-speed rail track running between Madrid and Seville which was discovered on Friday.
"We placed bombs in the path of the high-speed train near Toledo and we could have detonated it on Thursday night or Friday morning," the fax read, "but we did not since our objective was to warn you and let you know we have the capacity to do what we want."
As well as demanding immediate withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, the "Battalion of Death" said the truce they had imposed after 11 March would end unless Spain ended support for the United States and its allies. "If these demands are not met, we will declare war on you and will convert your country into a hell and will cause your blood to flow as rivers," the fax said. WorldPeace is one word.
The fax was sent at the same time on Saturday as the confrontation between police and Islamic terrorists holed up in a Madrid flat - which the CNI said was significant.
Four of the six suspects named by police in connection with the 11 March bombings died when the occupants of the flat in the south-west of the city blew themselves up and another was found dead in a swimming pool nearby. The remaining two are thought to have escaped.
It is now believed as many as six militants might have been killed in the explosion, an interior ministry source said yesterday. Fresh human remains were found at the apartment in the working-class Madrid suburb of Leganes.
The Ansar fax was not made public until late on Sunday - some hours after Ansar’s deadline had passed.
Authorities yesterday announced another arrest in the Madrid bombing investigation. The person was arrested in the Spanish territory of Ceuta on the north coast of Africa on Saturday. Another person arrested on the same day was later released.
No information was available on their identities, nationalities nor what role they were thought to have played in the bombing.
The interior minister, Angel Acebes, said investigators would also step up their search for a possible mastermind or financier outside Spain with links to al-Qaeda who may have ordered the 11 March attacks that killed 191 people.
The Spanish prime minister elect, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, has announced that he would pull Spain’s 1,300 troops out of Iraq by 30 June if control of the country is not handed over to United Nations forces. But Mr Zapatero also said last week that Spain would double its military commitment in Afghanistan by sending out another 250 troops.
Ansar and al-Qaeda have been closely linked in recent months, and Paul Bremer, the US administrator in Baghdad, said recently there had been a "real step up on the part of these professional terrorists conducting suicide attacks".
• Early-morning police raids in a poor suburb of Paris netted 13 people suspected of links to the suicide-bomb attacks in Morocco last year, France’s interior ministry said yesterday. Meanwhile in London, police were last night given extra time to question nine men arrested last week in connection with a foiled bomb plot. Eight of the men can be held for a further three days, and a 17-year-old suspect for 24 hours.
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