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Madrid suspects blow selves up

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Blast Kills 4 in Hunt for Madrid Suspects
Associated Press Writer

MADRID, Spain (AP)--Three suspects in the Madrid railway bombings blew themselves up Saturday in a building while surrounded by police, killing one special forces agent and wounding 11 police officers, the interior minister said.

The blast in Leganes, a southern suburb of Madrid, blew away part of the walls of the building. Police had earlier evacuated residents and cordoned off part of the town.

Interior Minister Angel Acebes said a preliminary investigation indicated three terrorists had died, but he added the number had yet to be confirmed because of the damage to the bodies.

``The special police agents prepared to storm the building and when they started to execute the plan, the terrorists set off a powerful explosion, blowing themselves up,'' Acebes said.

``There are three that could have blown themselves up, but the possibility of more is not ruled out,'' he said.

He said police believe some of the suspects may have carried out the March 11 train bombings that killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,800.

The investigation has focused on the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, which has links to al-Qaida.

On Friday, police found a bomb under the tracks of a high-speed rail line 40 miles south of Madrid. Acebes said Saturday it was made of the same brand of explosive, Goma 2 Eco, that was used in the Madrid train attacks.

The bomb failed to detonate because it wasn't properly wired, officials said.

``It's the same type of explosive and it's the same brand,'' Acebes said of the 26-pound bomb. The bomb scare stopped six bullet trains using the Madrid-Seville line.

The fact that the same explosive may not help investigators. Goma 2, often used for demolition and in mining, is relatively easy to get in Spain.

Authorities on Friday stepped up security on Spain's entire rail network. On Saturday, soldiers, police and Civil Guard officers could be seen patrolling the targeted high-speed rail lines.

Because the bag containing the bomb was dry and the ground was wet, authorities believe it was placed at the scene Friday. A 450-foot-long cable was attached to the detonator.

The rail line where the bomb was found mainly serves Spain's AVE bullet trains, which have a top speed of 190 mph, although some slower trains also use it.

The government has said it is focusing on the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, the forerunner of a group suspected of last year's Casablanca bombings, which killed 45 people including 12 suicide bombers.

The Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported Saturday that the Spanish Embassy in Egypt received a letter from an Islamic militant group threatening new attacks if Spain did not withdraw its troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the letter, the Brigade of Abu Hafs al-Masri, a group that also claimed responsibility for the March 11 attacks, threatened to strike against Spanish diplomatic missions in North Africa and the Mediterranean region unless Spanish troops are withdrawn in four weeks.

A Spanish diplomat in Cairo, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the embassy received a threatening letter signed by Abu Hafs after the commuter train attacks last month.

The United States believes the Abu Hafs group lacks credibility and has only tenuous ties to al-Qaida. In the past, the group has claimed responsibility for events to which they were not connected _ such as last summer's blackouts in North America and Britain.

AP-NY-04-03-04 1729EST

Copyright 2004, The Associated Press.

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