Thursday, March 11, 2004

'Al Qaeda' Claims Madrid Blasts

So this wasn't the handiwork of ETA after all?

A statement attributed to Al Qaeda and sent to a London-based newspaper has claimed responsibility for a series of deadly bombings in Madrid.
Ten simultaneous blasts ripped through four packed commuter trains at peak hour, killing 190 people and injuring 1,247 others.
The letter, which called the attacks "Operation Death Trains", was sent to the Al-Quda Al-Arabi newspaper.
"We have succeeded in infiltrating the heart of crusader Europe and struck one of the bases of the crusader alliance," it said.
There was no way of authenticating the letter, a copy of which was faxed to Reuters's office in Dubai by the newspaper.
The letter bore the signature "Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades/Al Qaeda".
The newspaper received similar letters from the same brigade claiming responsibility on behalf of Al Qaeda for a November bombing of two synagogues in Turkey and the August bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad.

Koran tape
In Madrid, Spanish officials say they have found seven detonators and a tape in the Arabic language in a van which may be linked to the 10 simultaneous blasts.
Spanish Interior Minister Angel Acebes says the van was found in the east of the Spanish capital.
He says the tape contained recordings of verses from the Koran.
Mr Acebes says authorities are not ruling out any line of investigation in their probe of the bomb blasts.
"The conclusion of this morning that pointed to the terrorist organisation [ETA] right now is still the main line of investigation," he said.
"[But] I have given the security forces instructions not to rule out anything."
Earlier, Mr Acebes had said there was "no doubt" the Basque separatist group ETA was responsible for the attacks.
He says the Koranic verses were those "usually used to teach the Koran" and he left open the possibility that the tape might have been planted to mislead authorities.
The van had been stolen from the southern town of Alcala de Henares, which was the point of origin for the four trains targeted in the bomb attacks, Mr Acebes said.
There has been no claim of responsibility for the attacks, the worst to hit Europe since the 1988 bombing of a US plane over Lockerbie, Scotland that killed 270.

I say let's wait and see. It may well turn out that ETA worked hand-in-hand with Islamic extremists to pull off this heinous crime; I certainly wouldn't put it past them to do so. For all one knows, this might even have been entirely an ETA operation, with all the supposedly "Islamic" evidence knowingly planted as red herrings to lead in the wrong direction. I can even think of a strong motive why this might be so - a Popular Party weakened by a public backlash over Aznar's support for Bush would be in less of a position to crack down on Basque separatism terrorism.*

*I'm taking my lead here from Frank McGahon, who points out the inappropriateness of calling murderers like ETA by the oh-so-innocous label of "separatists." There is no identity between separatism and mass murder.