- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 16, 2004

From combined dispatches

MADRID — At least six Moroccans were believed involved in last week’s Madrid train bombings as international investigations increasingly focused on Islamic militants linked to al Qaeda.

Germany, meanwhile, said outgoing Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar’s government misled its intelligence on the bombings to pin the blame on Basque terrorists on the eve of national elections.

A 45-year-old woman died of her injuries yesterday, raising the death toll from Thursday’s bombings to 201. Of the more than 1,600 wounded, eight are in critical condition.

The main suspect in custody in the attacks, Moroccan immigrant Jamal Zougam, has already been identified by Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon as a follower of Imad Yarkas, the purported leader of Spain’s al Qaeda cell who is jailed on suspicion he helped plan the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

The daily newspaper El Pais reported yesterday that police believe they have identified five other Moroccans who directly participated in the attacks and are at large.

A suspected link between the Madrid bombings and suicide bomb attacks in Casablanca, Morocco, last year grew stronger yesterday when French private investigator Jean-Charles Brisard described a phone tap in which Zougam purportedly said he had met with Mohamed Fizazi, the spiritual leader of Salafia Jihadia, a clandestine Moroccan extremist group.

Salafia Jihadia is suspected of involvement in the Casablanca attack, which killed 33 persons and 12 bombers and has been linked to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terror network.

Police in the Basque city of San Sebastian, meanwhile, said they detained an Algerian who purportedly talked about a terrorist attack in Madrid two months before it happened.

Police said they did not believe the man had any contacts with the Basque separatist group ETA, which the government initially blamed for the attacks.

German television ARD reported yesterday that Spanish authorities misled German officials into believing that ETA was responsible for the Madrid bombings.

It said Spanish investigators initially told Germany’s federal criminal bureau BKA that the explosive used in the bombings was Titadyn, which the ETA has often employed in the past, and later said it was Goma 2 Eco dynamite, an explosive they claimed had also been used by ETA.

Only Monday, a day after Spain’s conservative government surprisingly lost the general election, did Spanish officials say that the Goma 2 explosive was not of any type previously used by ETA.

German Interior Minister Otto Schily said the information from Spanish authorities reached Berlin “with some delay.”

“We obviously would have preferred to have been informed about certain details at an earlier stage than was the case,” he said Sunday.

Mr. Aznar has been pilloried for trying to pressure the media into blaming the Basque separatists rather than suspecting Islamic extremists linked to al Qaeda.

In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan chided Security Council members yesterday for naming ETA in a resolution adopted shortly after the deadly train bombings.

Despite misgivings, the 15-member council last Thursday gave in to pressure from the Spanish government and agreed to a resolution that identified ETA as the perpetrator of the bombings.

On Monday, Spain issued what amounted to a diplomatic apology, telling the Security Council it had acted in good faith when it pointed the finger at ETA. But the letter said that since Thursday new evidence had been uncovered “pointing to the involvement of citizens of other countries.”

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