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Spain on High Alert Following Videotaped Threat of More Attacks - 2004-04-09

In Spain, despite the beginning of the Holy Week holiday period, security forces are on a high anti-terrorist alert. The seriousness of the alert has been underlined after a video tape made by Islamic militants was found threating more attacks unless Spain withdraws its troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

More than 1,500 members of the Spanish army have been assigned to help police and civil guards patrol possible terrorist targets at strategic installations and public transportation facilities throughout Spain. In Madrid municipal police have begun patrolling the subway system. The deployment is part of an emergency plan put into effect after the March 11 bombing of four commuter trains heading for Madrid in which 191 people were killed and more than 1800 others injured. The plan was reinforced after a bomb was found on the tracks of the high-speed AVE train line between Madrid and Seville and the cornering of the terrorist cell which planted the bomb in the Madrid suburb of Leganés late last week.

At least seven terrorist suspects blew themselves up after a shoot out with elite police agents. One agent was killed by the blast.

Spanish investigators have found more important pieces of evidence from the rubble of the apartment house. One was a video tape of three heavily armed and masked men, one of whom threatened in Arabic further terrorist attacks unless Spain withdrew forces from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Until now Spain has sent more than 1400 troops to both countries.

Investigators also confirmed that the terrorists who blew themselves up had on Saturday tried to plant another bomb on the Madrid-Zaragoza track but had fled to the Leganés apartment when detected by patrolmen. Police said the terrorists also planned to attack a shopping mall in Leganés this week.

So far 17 people, mostly Moroccans have been imprisoned as suspects in the train bombings. Some of them have been identified by surviving passengers. Police are now searching for at least one person believed to have escaped the arrest and several other suspected accomplices of the terrorists.

A key suspect is the Moroccan Amer Aziz accused by a judge of being a member of Al Qaida and an accomplice in the planning of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S.