An Islamic terror group linked to al-Qa’eda warned Spain after the Madrid train bombings that it would come under fresh attack unless its troops were withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan within four weeks.
A Spanish diplomat confirmed last night that a letter signed by the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, warning of further attacks on Spanish interests in North Africa and the southern Mediterranean, was sent to the country’s embassy in Cairo.
The warning was revealed as the Spanish interior minister, Angel Acebes, confirmed that the explosives used to make a bomb planted under a train track 40 miles south of Madrid on Friday were the same type used in last month’s train bombings, which killed 191 people.
“The explosives are the same as those used on March 11, but the investigation is continuing to try to determine who is behind it,” Mr Acebes said. Yesterday, as trains began to run again on the country’s rail network, hundreds of police officers guarded main lines while dozens of helicopters patrolled the skies overhead. The network was earlier closed after a rail worker discovered the 26lb bomb next to the high-speed line from Madrid to Seville during a routine inspection.
Mr Acebes said that the bomb – made of Goma 2 Eco dynamite – failed to detonate because it had no trigger, suggesting that those responsible for planting it may have been scared off by security guards. He said that investigators were still unsure whether the detonator attached to the unexploded bomb was similar to those used in the Madrid explosions. In both cases, however, the detonators were similar to ones commonly used in the mining industry.
Spain’s incoming prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, has promised to pull 1,300 Spanish troops out of Iraq if the United Nations does not take charge there by the end of June, undoing the policy of outgoing pro-American Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar. Last week, however, Mr Zapatero announced that Spain would double its presence in Afghanistan, sending in another 250 troops in defiance of the militants’ warning.
Despite Mr Acebes’s appeal to the Spanish public not to panic, commuters were fearful of further attacks. “You can’t be calm. Everything seems relatively under control but you don’t know what will happen,” said Jose Antonio Perez, a 40-year-old chemist on his way to Cordoba in southern Spain.
Spain is holding 15 people, many of them Moroccan, over the March 11 attacks. Six are charged with mass murder, while nine others are accused of collaborating with or belonging to a terrorist organisation.