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Funerals Today for Madrid Bombing Victims - 2004-03-13


Funeral services are being held in Spain for many of the victims of Thursday's train bombings in Madrid that killed 200 people.

Families and friends of dozens of bombing victims are burying their dead in ceremonies today (Saturday) throughout the country.

The death toll climbed to 200 today. Spanish state radio reported that a middle-aged man wounded in the blasts died in a hospital outside Madrid. More than 14,00 people were injured in the coordinated attacks.

Government officials say the Basque separatist group ETA is their prime suspect in the attack, rather than Islamic militants. However, authorities say they are pursing all lines of investigation.

ETA has denied responsibility for the attack, while an Islamic group (the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades) affiliated with the al-Qaida terror network, has claimed responsibility. Neither claim has been verified.

Deputy Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who is the government's main candidate in elections Sunday, said in an interview (published today) he is convinced ETA is to blame. He said there are facts that make him believe the separatist group is responsible, as well as what he called a "moral conviction."

Sunday's general elections will take place as scheduled, even though the final days of campaigning were suspended, because of the attacks.

Debate on who is behind the attacks could sway voters in Sunday's election. The ruling party has taken a tough stance against the Basque separatists. And al-Qaida had marked Spain as a target because of its strong support for the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Friday, millions of people took to the streets across Spain to expressed grief and outrage over the bombings. According to some estimates, 11 million people - more than a quarter of the nation's population - took part in anti-terrorism marches and rallies in major Spanish cities.

Informtaion for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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