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Spain says suspect van had Arabic tapes
Updated: 2004-03-12 09:04

Spanish investigators said Thursday they had found a van containing seven detonators and a tape in Arabic, the first suggestion of any possible militant Islamist link to Madrid bombings that killed 192 people.

Spanish Interior Minister Angel Acebes said the tape contained verses from the Koran used in teaching. The van, which was stolen in Madrid Feb. 28, contained no other clues, he added.

Spain has so far attributed Thursday's attack to Basque separatists, but Acebes' remarks appeared to raise the possibility of a link to Islamist militants in the blasts on four packed commuter trains that injured 1,421 people. He said, however, that separatists remained the chief suspects.

The van was found in Alcala de Henares, the starting point of one of the bombed trains.

"I have just given instructions to the security forces not to rule out any lines of investigation," Acebes told a news conference, but declined to point the finger at any particular group besides ETA.

"The same as this morning, the security forces regard ETA as the principal line of investigation, given that all the signs -- the explosives used and recent foiled plots... -- all indicate that ETA wanted to carry out a big attack in Madrid," he added.

The 10 simultaneous bomb blasts during the rush hour were the worst attack of its kind to hit Europe since the 1988 bombing of a U.S. airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270.

Shortly after Acebes spoke, a London-based newspaper said it had received a letter purporting to come from Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network and claiming responsibility for the attacks.

Acebes said police were questioning a witness about the van, but he said no details were currently available.

The minister said more than 100 kilos of dynamite packed into a dozen rucksacks was used in the attacks, but he added it had not been possible to identify the brand of the explosive.

ETA, which has killed some 850 people since 1968 in a campaign for an independent Basque homeland, does not habitually claim responsibility for its attacks until several weeks afterward.

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