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Purported al Qaeda letter calls truce in Spain
Updated: 2004-03-18 09:08

A group claiming to have links with al Qaeda said on Wednesday it was calling a truce in its Spanish operations to see if the new Madrid government would withdraw its troops from Iraq, a pan-Arab newspaper said.

A girl holds up a banner reading 'peace' during a march in honor of the victims of Madrid's bombings, in the Spanish city of Alcala de Henares, one of the worst hit communities, March 16, 2004.  [Reuters]
In a statement sent to the Arabic language daily al-Hayat, the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, which claimed responsibility for the Madrid bombings that killed 201 people, also urged its European units to stop all operations.

"Because of this decision, the leadership has decided to stop all operations within the Spanish territories... until we know the intentions of the new government that has promised to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq," the statement said.

"And we repeat this to all the brigades present in European lands: Stop all operations."

Skepticism has greeted previous claims of responsibility by the group for attacks in Turkey and Iraq. U.S. officials say its links with Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network are unclear.

An unrelated videotape of a man describing himself as al Qaeda's European military spokesman also claimed responsibility for the Madrid bombing, saying it was in retaliation for outgoing Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's domestically-unpopular support for the U.S.-led Iraq war.

In a shock election result three days after the Madrid bombs, Spain voted in the Socialist party, which has since said it will probably withdraw its troops from Iraq.

"The Spanish people... chose peace by choosing the party that was against the alliance with America," the statement said.


The statement said it supported U.S. President Bush in his reelection campaign, and would prefer him to win in November rather than the Democratic candidate John Kerry, as it was not possible to find a leader "more foolish than you (Bush), who deals with matters by force rather than with wisdom."

In comments addressed to Bush, the group said:

"Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilization."

"Because of this we desire you (Bush) to be elected."

The group said its cells were ready for another attack and time was running out for allies of the United States.

"Whose turn is it next? Will it be Japan or America, or Italy, Britain or Oslo or Australia?" the statement said, adding Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were also targets.

The group is named after Muhammed Atef, also known as Abu Hafs, a close bin Laden aide killed in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

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