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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 March, 2004, 20:28 GMT
New arrests over Madrid bombings
Police car carrying a detainee leaves a Madrid police station
A judge will decide if the five have a case to answer
Spanish police have seized five more suspects over the Madrid train bombs, bringing to 11 the number of arrests since the devastating blasts.

The arrests came as the number of deaths rose to 202 - equalling that of the Bali attacks - with the death in hospital of a young Peruvian woman.

Five men already in custody have been making their first court appearance.

Of the new detainees, three were seized in the Madrid suburb from where three of the four bombed trains started.

I am very, very frightened, but you have to go on - what else can we do?
Martha Lorena
commuter

A fourth suspect was detained on Thursday in the northern town of Oviedo and a fifth at an undisclosed location, judicial sources revealed in Madrid.

Shortly after the attacks on 11 March, a van was found parked next to the railway station in the suburb, Alcala de Henares, with detonators and a tape of Koranic verses inside.

Police reportedly believe one of the new detainees - said to be four Arabs and one Spaniard - was directly involved in planting the bombs.

Passenger trains leaving Alcala de Henares on Thursday were still only half-full a week after multiple no-warning bombs stuffed into backpacks went off in the midst of rush-hour commuters.

"I am very, very frightened, but you have to go on - what else can we do?" Martha Lorena, a Colombian cleaner, told AFP news agency as she boarded her 0700 train to Madrid.

First hearing

Three Moroccans and two Indians arrived in court amid tight security to be questioned by High Court Judge Juan del Olmo at a hearing expected to last late into the night.

Anti-terrorism rally on Rome's Capitoline Hill
Italians held a rally against terrorism on Thursday in the aftermath of Madrid

The judge must decide whether they should be charged immediately, held by police for further questioning or released on bail.

They were arrested on Saturday over a mobile phone rigged to detonate a bomb which failed to explode during the attacks.

The Spanish authorities reportedly suspect that one detainee, Jamal Zougam, has links to an al-Qaeda cell and also a militant Islamic organisation in Morocco.

He is reported to have been identified by bomb survivors.

At a separate hearing on Thursday, Judge Baltasar Garzon was interviewing al-Qaeda suspect Imad Yarkas, known as Abu Dahdah, over his alleged links to Mr Zougam.

Mr Yarkas is being held on suspicion of helping plan the 11 September 2001 attacks on America

Eta claim defended

Amid mounting evidence that Islamic militants were involved in the attacks, the Spanish government has released classified intelligence documents which, it says, justify initial claims that the bombs bore the hallmarks of the Basque separatist group Eta.

It released 24 pages of documents compiled by the National Intelligence Centre in a bid to show it had not sought to mislead public opinion over responsibility for the bombs.

Public suspicion that the government had been trying to deflect attention from its policies in Iraq is thought to have been a factor in the governing Popular Party's shock defeat at Sunday's general election.

"We can lose the elections but under no circumstances will we tolerate being called liars," said government spokesman Eduardo Zaplana after a cabinet meeting.


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The BBC's Annita McVeigh
"Along with the human costs the political aftershocks continue"



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