Report: Spain Shopping Mall Was Terror Target

Suspected terrorists who blew themselves up last weekend as police moved in to arrest them over the March 11 (search) bombings had been plotting an attack on a shopping center outside Madrid (search), a newspaper reported Thursday.

Police searching the apartment found maps of Parquesur (search), a retail and leisure complex, at least two backpacks and a belt, all packed with dynamite and wired to detonators, El Mundo said, quoting police.

Interior Ministry officials were not available to comment on the report.

A court official said Wednesday that the suspects had planned another major attack in Madrid, possibly during this week's Easter celebrations, but did not give more details.

El Mundo said the attack on Parquesur, less than a mile away from the apartment in the town of Leganes, was to have occurred Sunday, a day after the police raid that prompted up to seven terrorists to kill themselves, or later in the week leading up to Easter Sunday.

The planned attack also appeared aimed at hitting the maximum number of people in the week before Easter, when millions of Spaniards are on vacation and schools are out. The shopping center has 193 stores, a hotel and a 2,500-seat multi-cinema.

Spain, a predominantly Roman Catholic country, marks Easter week with religious processions that culminate on Easter Sunday. Fearing more attacks during the holy week, the government ordered unprecedented security measures.

Another newspaper, El Pais, said that four days before the March 11 attacks, police acting on a tip from neighbors visited the rural house southeast of Madrid where officials say the bombs used in the railway attacks were assembled. But police did not enter the house because they lacked a court order, and instead just jotted down the license plate numbers of cars parked outside, the paper said.

Seventeen people, including 13 Moroccans, have been charged in the case — six with mass murder and the rest with collaborating or belonging to a terrorist group.

The attacks on four commuter trains left 191 people dead and more than 1,800 injured.

Key suspects still at large include Amer Azizi, a Moroccan charged with terrorism in an indictment by Judge Baltasar Garzon last September against members of an alleged Spain-based Al Qaeda cell that he says helped prepare the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

A bomb was found and dismantled last Friday on a high-speed line between Madrid and Seville.

A statement sent from a group linked to Al Qaeda — and which claimed responsibility for the March 11 attacks two days later — to a Spanish newspaper said the bomb was placed as a warning of the havoc the group could wreak.

The group said it would turn Spain into "an inferno" unless Madrid withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Spain has 1,300 soldiers in Iraq and 125 in Afghanistan.