MOLDE, Norway – Norwegian researchers have found documents that could link the al-Qaida network to terror bombings that killed 200 people in Madrid, Spain. Experts from the government’s Norwegian Defense Research Establishment said the documents found on an Arabic-language Web site last year suggest Spain as a possible terror target because the country had been part of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.
“We must make maximum use of the proximity to the elections in Spain in March next year. Spain can stand a maximum of two or three attacks before they will withdraw from Iraq,” the documents said, according to daily newspaper VG.
A series of bombs hidden in backpacks exploded in quick succession Thursday, blowing apart four commuter trains and killing at least 200 people and wounding more than 1,400 in the Spanish capital. The attacks occurred ahead of Sunday’s national elections.
Researcher Thomas Hegghammer told the paper the researchers first thought the 42-page document referred to attacks against coalition forces in Iraq.
“But the fact that they specifically mention the election in Spain, makes us have to see this in the light of the action in Madrid, three days before the election,” Hegghammer said.
Norwegian Defense Research Establishment spokeswoman Anne-Lisa Hammer told The Associated Press the researchers would not speak to journalists Saturday, but added that the Norwegian reports were accurate.
State broadcaster NRK said the documents do not refer to Thursday’s attacks in Madrid but outline a strategy to pressure Spain, described as the weakest link in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, to stop cooperating with the United States.
“The author, who is anonymous, is very well-oriented in Spanish politics. We cannot say for sure that this document stems from al-Qaida. We don’t have any reason, either, to believe that it isn’t real,” researcher Brynjar Lia told VG.
The document suggests attacks on Spain would lead to the collapse of the fragile Iraq coalition set up by the United States if they forced Spain to withdraw.
Spanish officials blame the attacks on Basque separatists from the group ETA, which denied responsibility. An Islamic group linked with suspected al-Qaida links has claimed blame in a statement telefaxed to an Arabic newspaper in London.