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Letter Allegedly from Al-Qaida Threatens Spain with ‘Inferno’

By Katrin Bennhold

THE INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE

MADRID, Spain

Investigators on Monday studied a letter purportedly from al-Qaida promising “an inferno” unless Spain withdrew its troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the police reported the arrest of another suspect in the March 11 bombings of commuter trains in Madrid that killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,400.

In France on Monday, special forces rounded up 13 suspected members of a militant Islamic group thought to be behind bombings last year in Casablanca, Morocco.

After a tumultuous weekend, during which at least four suspects in the Madrid bombings blew themselves up, the newspaper ABC published in its Monday issue a Spanish translation of a letter written in Arabic that it had received by fax on Saturday. It was signed Abu Dujana al-Afghani, who described himself as a member of “al-Qaida of Europe.”

A videotape found two days after the train bombings had featured a man speaking in Arabic with a Moroccan accent who identified himself by that name and said he was the military spokesman of al-Qaida. He said the March 11 bombings were revenge for Spain's military cooperation with the United States.

The letter said European Qaida operatives had demonstrated their strength on March 11 and with an unexploded bomb on rail tracks last Friday. It said its truce with Spain was over, unless Spanish soldiers were withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan immediately.

If those demands are not met, the letter said, Spain will be converted into “an inferno and your blood will flow like rivers.”

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who was elected new prime minister days after the train bombings, has pledged to pull troops from Iraq unless the United Nations takes over the occupation force. But he has also said he favors sending more troops to Afghanistan.