Spanish troops may be pulled from Iraq

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapotero has vowed to put the fight against terrorism at the top of his agenda, after his Socialists party’s shock election win just days after the Madrid train bombings.

“The war in Iraq was a disaster, the occupation of Iraq is a disaster,” he said.

His comments come as details emerge about the arrests of three Moroccans in connection with Thursday’s attacks, considered Spain’s worst-ever act of terrorism.

An indictment shows that one of the three had ties with an alleged al-Qaeda cell leader charged in connection with the September 11 attacks in New York.

The indictment, dated September 17 2003, and written by Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon, names Jamal Zougam, who was arrested on Saturday, as a follower of Imad Yarkas who was jailed for allegedly helping to plan September 11.

Zougam’s alleged terrorist links strengthen the suspicion that al-Qaeda was involved in the train bombings that killed 200 and injured 1,500 people.

Spain’s new government is to take over the investigation.

The defeated conservative Popular Party, headed by former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, had initially blamed Basque separatist group ETA for the attacks.

Mr Zapatero’s victory speech was preceded by a minute’s silence for the train victims.

His party won 43 percent of the ballots, compared with 38 percent for the Popular Party.

The change in government is, at least in part, being attributed to voter outrage at the PP’s jump to blame ETA, as well as a perception that the government’s support for the US-led war in Iraq may have led to the bombings.

In addition to the three Moroccans, Spanish police have also detained two Spaniards of Indian origin for questioning.

The five were arrested after a mobile phone and prepaid phone card were found in an explosives-filled gym bag on one of the bombed trains.

Of the 1,500 injured, 252 remain in hospital, 19 of whom are critical, and another 150 in a serious condition.

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