12 March 2004
MADRID – ETA was reported Friday to have denied it carried out the bomb attacks which killed 199 people and injured more than 1,400.
A Basque newspaper and a television station said they received statements purporting to be from ETA denying any involvement in the massacre.
But authorities have not supported these claims.
Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said earlier Friday those hunting the terrorists were considering “all possibilities”.
Aznar, who disclosed that among the 199 dead are victims from 11 different countries, defended claims made by his government that the massacre was the work of ETA.
Soon after the blasts at three train stations Thursday morning, Interior Minister Angel Acebes said the explosions were the work of the Basque terrorist group but later in the day conceded Islamic terrorists could be behind the attacks.
Aznar said the government would “maintain an obligation to remain open” about the investigation.
The prime minister insisted many factors suggested ETA was behind the attacks.
He rejected claims made by opposition politicians that the government of the conservative Popular Party would not disclose all the details in case it adversely influenced Sunday’s general election.
Aznar said he had spoken on the telephone to editors of Spain’s main newspapers about the bombings Thursday.
Asked why Acebes had insisted so quickly the attacks were the work of ETA, Aznar said: “Who would not think that a democratic government would think logically that it was ETA?”
The group has previously targeted the Spanish railway system and two ETA suspects were arrested last month driving a truck loaded with more than 500kg of explosives headed for Madrid.
But there is growing speculation Al-Qaeda were the perpetrators of the massacre.
A stolen van was found Thursday near the route of the trains that contained seven detonators and a tape recording of Koranic verses.
And late Thurday, a London-based Arabic newspaper, Al-Quds, said it received an e-mail in which a group linked to al-Qaeda claimed to have carried out the attacks.
The message purportedly from the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades said it had attacked “America’s ally in its war against Islam” on behalf of al-Qaeda.
But American intelligence officials have cast doubt on the claim, saying al-Qaeda does not usually claim responsibility so early.
Officials said there were no plans to raise the colour-coded threat level of terror attacks in the US, which currently stands at yellow – an elevated state of alert.
Spanish editorial writers are demanding answers before voters go to the polls, because the culprits’ identity might influence people’s choice of party.
The ruling Popular Party campaigned on a hardline stance against ETA, but it also defied popular opposition by supporting the US-led war against Iraq – which may have triggered an attack by Al-Qaeda.
Adding to fears that it may have been Al-Qaeda, Madrid was struck exactly two and a half years, or 911 days, after the attacks in New York and Washington.
[EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news