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3 Terror Suspects Cornered In Madrid Suburb

Aired April 3, 2004 - 14:29   ET


FREDERICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: This breaking story we're following for you, a manhunt focuses on a Madrid, Spain suburb where the subject of this search, 3 suspects from North Africa, all in connection with the March 11 train bombing. Our Al Goodman is in Madrid with more on this.
And Al, are these suspects holed up, or cornered in a particular place in the suburb?

AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Frecericka, reporters on the seen for State Radio and various Spanish media we've been monitoring these reports from Madrid say that, indeed the suspects, 3 young North African suspects have holed up in a building that has been surrounded by police. There is a helicopter over head.

One reporter on the scene says that the suspects threatened to blow up the building. Then State Radio has just reported that has been, what State Radio is describing, as a controlled explosion now. That usually means that the police have moved everybody from a location. And there are reports that people have been evacuated from their buildings. To blow up this bomb, because they are unable to disfuse it peacefully, this is the best way to render it harmless is to blow it up and have everybody out of the way.

Now this has been going on for a few hours we are being told. And they're trying to find these suspects. There has been a shootout, according to some witnesses. So this would be if the police were closing in on these three suspects this would be an unusual level of violence in the arrests that have occurred since the March 11th commuter train bombings. Basically the other suspects have been taken off basically without resistance we are being told. This is clearly a different case. Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And Al what more do you know about this suburb and the location of this building where they are holed up? Is this a residential community or is this an industrial area?

Leganes is the southern suburb, maybe ten miles south of the city. It is both a residential area plus there would be industry. Now a witness telling State Radio, we monitored that broadcast, that some of the action is accruing here near a building where what she called Arab immigrants live in this building. So there may be a community of immigrants from North Africa in this particular town.

And that may have attracted the focus of police. This is in a particular section of Leganes; we have talked to hotels in other parts of that suburb that say they have seen nothing unusual. But clearly there is something going on. All Spanish media is reporting this. And our partnership (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and the police will soon have somebody on the scene. Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: What do we know Al about what drew investigators to this area to find these three suspects?

GOODMAN: We don't have details on that Fredricka. But we do know the investigators have been really stepping up the pressure on the suspects and with each new suspect that has taken in and remember there are 15 people who already have been charged and jailed in connection with the Madrid train bombings, of which 11 of those 15 are Moroccan, which is why the interior minister has blamed a group called the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group as the prime suspect.

So they have been talking very vigorously to these people in jail trying to find out other names and really gathering evidence at various methods from a house where they believe the bombs were built on the east side of the city, from an unexploded bomb that had a cell phone that revealed a lot of clues. They are going step by step just the way you would expect investigators to precede vigorously. We are being told Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Now Al is there any reason to believe that these three suspects are also being linked possibly to the un detonated bomb that was found or parts of the un detonated bomb found on the bullet train track most recently?

GOODMAN: We don't have any evidence to that now. As you know Spanish newspapers have said because the interior minister said the explosives found on the unexploded bomb of the bullet train on Friday matched exactly the same type of explosive, the same brand even, that means the same factory where it was made of the bombs that were carried out in -- last month that has led some Spanish newspapers to believe it must be the same Moroccan terrorist group involved.

But the interior minister earlier this day said that was premature to make that connection. Now we do know that in addition to the 15 people who have been charged, others have been arraigned and released. But there are six others who are wanted on international arrest warrants. We don't know whether any of the people sought in this suburb of Legances south of Madrid this evening happens to be on that international arrest warrant list. Their photographs have been published and we have put those on our CNN Web site. Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And one more time, Al can you clarify the reports -- some report of hearing explosions near or around the building? Where these three suspects are cornered or was this something that was done by the police authorities? Clarify that for us one more time.

GOODMAN: OK we are hearing two different things. One from State Radio that says there has been an explosion which State Radio believes to be a controlled explosion. And in Spanish terminology that is when the police have moved people out, so no one gets injured and the bomb squad has decided they can't diffuse or deactivate the bomb safely, so the safest way to render the bomb harmless is to blow it up. And it will cost property damage but nobody gets hurt. That is what a controlled explosion means. State Radio saying that is what's happened. And we do have reports that people have been moved out of their homes in this area where the manhunt is going on. Separately we have a reporter from Tenat three (ph) a television network saying that the suspects had threatened to blow up the building where they are. So we are trying to get clarity on that. Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right. Al Goodman thank you very much for that report out of Madrid. Even though right now officials have cornered three suspects, they believe they are linked to the March 11th train explosions in Madrid. Cornered them in a building in a suburb just south of Madrid. Ten miles south of Madrid called Leganes. It's both a residential and business community. And of course we'll continue to follow that story as we get more information.


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