Andrea Comas  /  Reuters
A teddy bear with a note reading "For the child victims of this unfair attack" is placed amid candles outside the Santa Eugenia train station in Madrid, Spain, on Thursday.
updated 3/12/2004 8:07:54 AM ET 2004-03-12T13:07:54

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Friday that the Madrid train bombings will only reinforce the international fight against terrorism.

“The savagery and inhumanity of these attacks undoubtedly” will strengthen the world’s resolve in the fight against terrorism, Ridge said in a speech to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand during a visit to this Southeast Asian country.

A series of bomb explosions Thursday on four commuter trains in Madrid, Spain, killed at least 192 people and wounded more than 1,400, in the worst terrorist attack in that country’s history. Spain blamed Basque separatists, but a shadowy group claimed responsibility in the name of al-Qaida.

“Terrorists are not freedom fighters, the world is beginning to understand that,” Ridge said.

Speculation of al-Qaida link
Ridge told reporters he could not confirm whether al-Qaida had a hand in the Madrid bombings.

“There is no specific information” available that would point to the identities of the perpetrators, he said. “There is a lot of speculation.”

Image: U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge
Sakchai Lalit  /  AP
"There is no specific information. There is a lot of speculation," U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said during a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand, in Bangkok, on Friday.
Ridge, making his third and final stop on an Asian tour that also took him to Singapore and Indonesia, was scheduled to meet with Thailand’s Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra later Friday.

He also rejected press reports that Osama bin Laden has already been captured in Afghanistan and that he would be used by President Bush as campaign fodder just before the U.S. presidential elections in November.

“With the help of the allies in the region and elsewhere we continue to pursue him (bin Laden) and no doubt in time we will track him down and bring him to justice,” Ridge said.

Thailand aids U.S. war on terror
Referring to the ongoing violence in the predominantly Muslim southern Thailand, Ridge said it appears to be purely domestic and “not tied in any way with international terrorism.”

Thailand has been a strong but discreet supporter of the U.S. war on terror. It was partly responsible for one of its biggest victories in Asia: the capture here last August of key terror suspect Hambali, said to be the operations chief of Jemaah Islamiyah.

Hambali, arrested in a joint Thai-U.S. operation in central Thailand, was turned over to U.S. officials and taken out of Thailand to an undisclosed location.

On Thursday, Thailand agreed to join a travel-monitoring program that Washington has been promoting around the world.

The new computer system — known as PISCES, the Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System — identifies and records travelers’ cross-border movements, and can identify suspected terrorists from records.

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