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Madrid Bombing Leader Reportedly Dies In Explosion

Madrid, 5 April 2004 (RFE/RL) - Spanish Interior Minister Angel Acebes said the ringleader of last month's Madrid railway attacks is among those who blew themselves up on 3 April in a suburban Madrid apartment.

Authorities now believe four suspects died in a massive explosion that went off as police closed in on the hideout. At a news conference yesterday, Acebes said one of the suspects was Serhane ben Abdelmajid Farkhet, who was known as "The Tunisian." He was suspected of coordinating the bombings of commuter trains in Madrid on 11 March that killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,800.

Acebes also said two or three suspects may have escaped. He also told reporters that police found 10 kilograms of explosives and 200 detonators in the apartment and that one dead suspect was wearing a suicide bomb belt.

One policeman was killed and 15 were wounded by the apartment explosion, which blew off a section of the building's front wall. Witnesses say that the suspects spotted the police and began shooting from the apartment's windows. A man who lives nearby described the scene: "All of the sudden, a large number of police forces arrived in the area. From behind a window with the shutters down, there were some Arabs screaming very loudly 'Allah' and I think the police officers were telling them to come downstairs. More police cars arrived while most of the area was already being cordoned off."

Spain currently has 15 suspects in custody and facing charges in the 11 March bombings. Eleven of the suspects being held for that attack are Moroccan and international arrest warrants have been issued for five Moroccans and a Tunisian. Interior Minister Acebes has said a shadowy organization called the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group was involved. The group is believed to have ties to Al-Qaeda.

Nerves in Spain were already on edge before Saturday night. On Friday (2 April), police found a bomb under the tracks of a high-speed rail line 60 kilometers south of Madrid. That bomb was made of the same explosive as that used in the 11 March Madrid attacks. Spanish police have stepped up security patrols along the railway lines, using helicopters and armored vehicles.