According to El Pais and Cadena Ser today, police reports describing the activities carried out by police during the hours following the Madrid train explosions show that police followed clues leading to islamic terrorist groups right from the beginning. If this is true, then these police reports seem to give strenth to accusations that the Interior Minister of the Popular Party Angel Acebes (informed at all times of the police investigation) deliberately misled the Spanish population, and international community, when he insisted for 48 hours that the main lines of investigation pointed to ETA as the most likely suspects.
According to the article in El Pais, the same day of the bombs, police searched the rooms of two hotels in Madrid, one occupied until 10th March by a Malasian sultan, and the other by two Arab citizens (neither of the searches led to any arrests).
Police also obtained passenger lists of all international flights and found a van in a suburb of Madrid containing a tape with recordings of the Coran. Various witnesses injured in the explosions were interviewed by police, and reported having seen Arab passengers on the trains carrying bags similar to the four bags containing explosive devices found by police near the scene of the crimes. The description of one man by two witnesses were so detailed that police were able to do a robot image of Jamal Zougam, currently being detained by the Spanish authorities.
According to El Pais, the whole poice report only contains two lines referring to ETA. They correspond to a version given by one witness who said he had seen two suspicious-looking people on the train who “might have been Basque“.
The lack of any more concrete evidence to back the witness’s statement led to the police decision not to investigate further along these lines.
On the afternoon of 11th March, Angel Acebes appeared before the world media and said “There is no doubt Eta is responsible”. The editors of two of Spain’s most popular newspapers, El Periodico and El Pais, both received unprecedented phone calls from President Aznar to inform them that ETA was responsible for the attacks. And according to the Association of Foreign Media in Madrid, high-ranking government officials telephoned several journalists shortly after the bombings requesting them to pinpoint Basque separatist group ETA as the perpetrator of the attacks in their reporting. The telephone calls were allegedly made even after the discovery of the suspicious van containing Arabic tapes on the evening of the attacks.
The next day, after ETA had denied responsability, and increasingly Spanish people and media were talking about a possible link between the crimes and islamic terrorist groups, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ana Palacio, underlined the government’s stance when she said “Everything appears to indicate that this terrible carnage is the work of Eta.”