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Spain Arrests Five More in Madrid Attacks

Police arrested five more people in the Madrid train bombings as the death toll rose Thursday to 202, making the blasts — along with the 2002 Bali nightclub blasts — the worst terrorist strike since the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

The arrests brought to 11 the total suspects in Spanish custody and came as the country marked a week since the bombings that shocked Europe, led to a stunning election defeat for the government and roiled Madrid's relations with the United States.

In Morocco, police also rounded up associates of Jamal Zougam (search), a key suspect in the train bombings with alleged Al Qaeda (search) ties.

The death of a 22-year-old Peruvian woman increased the toll in the attacks to 202 — the same number killed by bombings in Bali, Indonesia, in October 2002. Nearly 3,000 people died in the Sept. 11 attacks carried out by Usama bin Laden's (search) Al Qaeda network.

The latest arrests added to suspicions Moroccan extremists linked to Islamic terrorism were behind the Madrid bombings. At least three of the five suspects arrested Wednesday and Thursday are Moroccan nationals, according to a Moroccan official.

Spanish authorities sought to extend the detention of five other suspects, including Zougam, who were arrested Saturday. Zougam and the others — two Moroccans and two Indians — were being questioned Thursday at a Madrid court by Judge Juan del Olmo.

Del Olmo's options are to jail them pending further investigation — which would suggest there is strong evidence against them — free them on bail or with other restrictions, or release them altogether.

The suspects can be held for two years without a formal indictment while more evidence is gathered. This period can be extended for two more years.

Public anger over the government's handling of the bombings contributed to its loss in Sunday's elections. Critics accused it of provoking the bombings and making Spain a target for Al Qaeda by backing the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Prime Minister-designate Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (search), elected in the aftermath of the devastating bombings, repeated pledges Thursday that he would withdraw his country's 1,300 troops from Iraq unless the United Nations takes charge.

If Zapatero carries out his intention, "he'll appear to be appeasing terrorists and I think that would be really unfortunate," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz (search) said during an interview Thursday on the PBS television program "Jim Lehrer News Hour."

"The Spaniards are courageous people," he said, adding: "They haven't run in the face of the Basque terrorists. I hope they don't run in the face of these peoplem."

In Morocco, police were rounding up Zougam's associates for questioning, said a Moroccan official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Three of the new arrests occurred in or near Alcala de Henares, a town 18 miles east of Madrid where three of the four bombed trains originated, according to court officials in Madrid. It's also where police found a van with detonators and a cassette tape with verses from the Quran hours after the attacks.

Another new suspect with Spanish citizenship was arrested in Oviedo, in northern Spain, court officials said.

Police believe that suspect may have had a direct role in the bombings and in the May 2003 suicide attacks that killed 33 people and 12 bombers in Casablanca, Morocco, said radio station Cadena Ser.

There were few details about the fifth suspect, although the news agency Efe said he was of North African origin.

Interior Minister Angel Acebes confirmed the "investigation is advancing" but wouldn't comment on the latest arrests. "This is a time for caution," he said, announcing the government would release intelligence reports about the attacks.

The 11th person detained in the investigation is an Algerian suspected of having had warning of the attack.

But Zougam, a 30-year-old Moroccan phone salesman in Madrid, remains the key suspect.

Spanish authorities were aware of his alleged links to Al Qaeda since at least 2001, when they searched his Madrid apartment and found videos, including one of a bin Laden interview, and phone numbers of suspected Al Qaeda members.

Moroccan officials said evidence shows Zougam also had links to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — a key operative with strong ties to Ansar al-Islam, an Islamic extremist guerrilla group blamed for terrorist strikes in Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Morocco.

The officials believe the Madrid attackers also have links to those blamed for the Casablanca bombings.

In an effort to untangle the web of terrorist ties, a judge questioned Imad Yarkas, the alleged leader of Al Qaeda's cell in Spain, who is jailed on suspicion of helping plan the Sept. 11 attacks.

His attorney said Yarkas knew Zougam only superficially. "He was not his friend," said the lawyer, Jacobo Teijelo. "He had no important relationship."

But a probe of Al Qaeda by Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon shows Zougam and Yarkas knew each other since at least 2001 and that Zougam telephoned Yarkas in a call monitored on Sept. 5, 2001.

Zougam is also suspected of links to Said Chedadi, another alleged Al Qaeda operative arrested with Yarkas in 2001. Chedadi's phone number was found in the search of Zougam's home.

Chedadi remains in jail. On Wednesday night, police began searching his Madrid shop and house.

The government's decision to release intelligence reports on the bombings was aimed at countering allegations it lied by initially saying Basque separatists were responsible.

"We have suffered a campaign of defamation, insinuations and even lies, the sole aim of which was to discredit the government and make it look like a liar and a manipulator," said government spokesman Eduardo Zaplana.

Public anger over the government's handling of the bombings contributed to its loss in Sunday's elections. Critics accused it of provoking the bombings and making Spain a target for Al Qaeda by backing the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

A week after the bombings, many in Madrid were still in shock. At Atocha station, where two of the four trains were bombed, passengers paused and stood in silence Thursday at makeshift altars of flowers and candles.

"What happened in Iraq's war zone happened in Madrid," said Ulpiano Calderon, who helped recover bodies and survivors. "The sounds that people made — the breathing, the cries. ... I don't remember what I did, but I remember the sounds."