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Al-Qaida plotted attacks to split Spain from allies

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Al-Qaida plotted attacks

to split Spain from allies

Document shows strategy to topple pro-U.S. government

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Posted: March 16, 2004

Al-Qaida planned to carry out attacks to sever Madrid from the U.S. and its other allies in the war on terror, according to a document published months before Spain's national elections.

CNN said it obtained a copy of the document, posted in December on an Internet message board used by al-Qaida and its sympathizers.

"We think the Spanish government will not stand more than two blows, or three at the most, before it will be forced to withdraw because of the public pressure on it," the al-Qaida document says, according to CNN.

"If its forces remain after these blows, the victory of the Socialist Party will be almost guaranteed – and the withdrawal of Spanish forces will be on its campaign manifesto."

On Sunday, that prediction was fulfilled when the Socialists overcame a late deficit in the polls and ousted Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's Popular Party just three days after 10 bombs ripped through Madrid's central rail station, killing at least 201 people.

Then, yesterday, Prime Minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero vowed to pull out 1,300 Spanish troops in Iraq by June 30 if the United Nations "doesn't take control of Iraq."

Zapatero called the Iraq war a mistake and said Spain's participation in it "has been a total error."

According to reports today, one of the five men arrested in the bombings has ties to the instigators of an al-Qaida-linked bombing in Casablanca, Morocco, last May that killed more than 30 people.

Jamal Zougam, 30, is believed to be a follower of Spain's alleged al-Qaida ringleader Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas. Moroccan government officials said Zougam is connected to two brothers charged in the Casablanca bombing.

Asa Hutchinson, the U.S. undersecretary for the Department of Homeland Security, told CNN al-Qaida was involved in the Madrid bombings.

"We do know that there is a connection to al-Qaida," he said. "We have verified that. At this point, there clearly is some link and we're going to continue to see the depth of that."

CNN spoke to another senior administration official, however, who said Islamic extremists, not necessarily al-Qaida, remain high on the list of suspects.

"Things are slightly leaning toward Islamic fundamentalist responsibility, as opposed to pure ETA or al-Qaida," one senior administration official said.

Spanish officials initially blamed ETA, the Basque separatist group on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations, but evidence quickly surfaced of possible al-Qaida ties.

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