Terrorism in Spain

  1. WOW! I just noticed this in the "online" New York Times!

    Sad. . . .

    Spain Struggles to Absorb Worst Terrorist Attack in Its History

    Published: March 11, 2004

    MADRID, March 11-In the bloodiest terrorist attack on a European target, 10 bombs exploded during this morning's rush hour in three commuter train stations here. The Interior Ministry said more than 190 people were killed and more than 1,200 wounded.

    Three other bombs were discovered and detonated by the police in the highly coordinated explosions, which went off within a 10-minute period.

    As the country struggled to absorb the carnage just three days before general elections, Prime Minister José María Aznar appeared on television and called the attacks "mass murder." He vowed that Spain would never negotiate with "these assassins."

    Mr. Aznar added, "March 11 now has it place in the history of infamy."

    Already some Spaniards are calling the attacks the country's "9/11," and the front page of a special edition of the biggest daily, El Pais, this afternoon ran the headline, "11-M."

    There was no advance warning of the attacks. At first, the Spanish authorities blamed E.T.A., the Basque group that has been seeking independence from Spain for more than three decades.

    Later today, however, the Interior Ministry said the police had found a van with detonators and an Arabic-language tape of Koranic verses, according to news agencies, and that it was considering all lines of investigation.

    An Arabic newspaper, Al-Quds al-Arabi, said it had received a claim of responsibility for theid train bombings issued in the name of Al Qaeda.

    The five-page e-mail claim, signed by the shadowy Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigade, was received at the paper's London offices. It said the brigade's "death squad" had penetrated "one of the pillars of the crusade alliance, Spain."

    "This is part of settling old accounts with Spain, the crusader, and America's ally in its war against Islam," the claim said.

    After the purported claim of responsibility emerged, however, an American counterterrorism official said that the claim should be viewed with skepticism. Without being specific, the American counterterrorism official said that "the evidence at this point" doesn't point in the direction of Al Qaeda involvement.

    The official said the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigade had a record of making false claims of responsibility and said the significance of the reported discovery by Spanish investigators of a van with Koranic verses was unclear.

    "There is an Al Qaeda presence in Spain; there is an Al Qaeda presence in this country." the official said.

    "Al Qaeda doesn't normally claim responsibility for attacks. We're not ruling anything out, but I would caution against jumping to the conclusion that this was Al Qaeda. When there are attacks sometimes people come out of the woodwork to claim responsibility for propaganda reasons."

    The attacks in Spain "do represent an attack on a larger scale, but it certainly was within E.T.A.'s capability to pull that off," the official said.

    The government declared a three-day period of mourning, and political parties participating in the elections called off all remaining campaign events, although elections will proceed as scheduled.

    "All of Spain is suffering," said Mariano Rajoy, the front-runner and leader of the governing Popular Party, who has made the war on terrorism a centerpiece of his campaign and pledged to follow Mr. Aznar's policies. "This is a moment to put aside differences and show unity with the victims and their families."

    Most of the victims were ordinary middle- and working-class people and university students commuting into Madrid, although children were also among the dead.

    At the main Atocha commuter station in the heart of Madrid, just a block from the Prado Museum, an explosion cut a train in two, sending pieces of metal high into the air. Bloody victims crawled from mangled train cars and staggered into the streets. Other victims were found burned to death in their seats.

    There, as at the nearby Santa Eugenia and El Pozo stations, broken bodies and body parts were thrown along the platforms; in the aftermath, rescue workers unused to massive terrorist attacks struggled to separate the dead from the wounded.

    Amet Oulabid, a 23-year-old carpenter, said he got off the front of the train at the Atocha station just seconds before the bomb went off in one of its rear cars.

    "I saw bodies flying," he said. "There was a security guard dripping with blood. People were pushing and running. I saw a woman who had fallen on the tracks because people were pushing so hard. I escaped with my life by a hair."

    At El Pozo, just east of downtown Madrid, Luz Elena Bustos, 42, got off a nearby bus just 10 minutes before the explosion at that station.

    "There were pieces of flesh and ribs all over the road," she said. "There were ribs, brains all over. I never saw anything like this. The train was blown apart. I saw a lot of smoke, people running all over, crying. I saw part of a hand up to the elbow and a body without a head face down on the ground. Flesh all over. I started to cry from nerves. There was a 3-year-old boy all burnt and a father was holding him in his arms, crying."

    People combed the city's major hospitals in search of family members believed to be aboard the trains.

    "Ay, please, God, this can't be happening," said Carmen Gómez, 47, sobbing as she studied a patient list-in vain-at Gregorio Marañón hospital, seven hours after the terrorist attack. She said her friend's 25-year-old daughter was aboard a train bound for Atocha station, but after traveling to four major hospitals, they had not yet located her. "How could a human being do this, how could a human being do this?" she asked.

    The bombs, which were contained in plastic bags and backpacks, began exploding at about 7:50 a.m. The police quickly sealed off the bomb sites and blocked off surrounding streets; police helicopters flew over Madrid throughout the day, amid predictions that there could be other attacks.

    The police had been put on a terror alert for a possible terrorist attack as the country prepares to go to the polls.

    But the attacks clearly took Mr. Aznar, his government and the Spanish people by surprise. In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Aznar, who survived an E.T.A. attack years ago, boasted that terrorism "is a lot weaker than it was."

    The security situation seemed so stable that King Juan Carlos attended the soccer match between Spain's star-studded Real Madrid team and Munich on Wednesday evening.

    Today, the king, accompanied by his wife, Queen Sofía, their son and heir, Prince Felipe, and his fiancée, Letizia Ortiz, visited a hospital in central Madrid to comfort survivors and their families.

    The attacks on Madrid's busiest commuter train stations at the height of rush hour was clearly designed to inflict maximum civilian casualties, attract the world's attention and illustrate that Spain is not safe.

    Despite overwhelming popular opposition, Spain was one of the most fervent supporters of the American-led war in Iraq and there are 1,300 Spanish troops on Iraqi soil. Last October, two audiotapes reportedly made by Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda, said that his group had the "right to respond at any suitable time and place" against countries with forces in Iraq, listing Spain as one of his targets.

    If the Basque group is responsible for today's bombings, it would be its deadliest attack; it killed 21 people in a supermarket blast in Barcelona in 1987. But E.T.A. has been severely damaged by cooperation between Spain and France, and last year, E.T.A. killed 3 people, compared with 23 in 2000 and 15 in 2001.

    E.T.A. almost always gives warnings in advance and claims responsibility, and has never conducted an attack of this magnitude. But according to one Spanish government official, the bombers used a kind of dynamite also found in the bomb-laden van intercepted last month.

    Arnaldo Otegi, leader of Batasuna, E.T.A.'s political wing, which has been banned in Spain, said E.T.A. probably was not behind the attacks, saying that the attack could have been the work of "Arab resistance."

    Douglas Jehl contributed reporting from Washington for this article.
  2. 39 Comments

  3. by   Sadie04
    Very sad. I'm going to Spain in April and will be in Madrid for a few days. Makes me kinda nervous!
  4. by   NurseHardee
    These bombings occurred just a few days before the Spanish elections, and also exactly 2 1/2 years after Sept 11. This can only lead one to think that it is a response to the Spanish president's backing of Bush in his invasion of Iraq. But Spain has a rotten record in North Africa in its own right, so the responsible bombers may have been motivated also by that?

    What a terrible price for innocents in Spain to pay for their government's actions! Spain had the hugest demonstrations against the US invasion of Iraq anywhere. But like Blair, Asnar wanted to be the junior partner of US interventionism, and the Spanish people got dragged into the mess.

    Now, just like in the US, Asnar and the Spanish Right are trying to get the whole nation to rally around the flag, and his mistaken politics. Only thugs like Bush and Asnar win, when a 'dirty war' gets going strong.

    Nurse Hardee
    Last edit by NurseHardee on Mar 12, '04
  5. by   fergus51
    I am not ready to believe the claim of the fundamentalist muslim group. It's the same group that claimed responsibility for last summer's blackout on the east coast, even though it was just a power glitch in Ohio. Apparently a similar eta plan was foiled before Xmas.
  6. by   NurseHardee
    In a 'dirty war', one never knows for sure who is doing what, when, and where. And now, it can be said that the US 'Bring 'Em On' approach has made 'dirty war' global, has it not? And into the future infinitely, too.....
    And it appears that this is what the US government actually wants!

    Here below is the ETA denial of responsibility for the bombing.... NH

    Robust and total denials issued by people from the banned Batasuna

    "The Basque pro-independence left wishes to clearly express the most
    absolute rejection of what happened today in Madrid. Indiscriminate
    actions against civilians, against workers ... are absolutely and firmly
    rejected," former Batasuna leader Arnaldo Otegi said in a statement.

    A similar statement from Batasuna's representative in the European
    Parliament, Koldo Gorostiaga, said: "The action should be considered as
    a massacre and that it does not have any justification."

    Trade Union LAB also rejects absolutly the indiscriminate action against
    civilians, against workers.


    1.- It would be the better excuse to continue the repression policy
    against the basque left pro independence movement and the human rights
    violations usually made.

    2.- The Popular Party just a two days from elections needs the spanish
    society to think is an issue connected to basques a horrible attack
    like this to mantain a clear an total majority.

    3.- If it would be confirmed that arab extremist are the actors, and Al
    Qaeda would be involved the Popular Party wich policy in Irak and
    Afaganistan has been clearly contested by the spanish people would be in
    a hurry.

    El sindicato LAB expresa su "incredulidad" sobre la autoría de ETA
    (comunciado íntegro)

    Ante los gravísimos sucesos de Madrid con un balance estremecedor de
    personas muertas y heridas, el Comité Ejecutivo del sindicato LAB
    expresa ante la opinión publica lo siguiente:

    - LAB quiere en primer lugar manifestar su sentimiento de dolor y
    solidaridad con todas las víctimas y sus familias.

    - Manifestamos nuestro más absoluto rechazo ante la masacre de
    ciudadanos y ciudadanas acaecida en Madrid con el resultado de decenas
    de personas muertas y centenares heridas.

    - Actos de esta naturaleza contra la población civil no tienen ninguna
    justificación y, por tanto, tienen el rechazo de esta organización

    - Queremos señalar nuestra incredulidad ante las versiones que atribuyen
    a ETA la autoría de estos hechos.

    - LAB exige a quienes sean responsables de estos hechos una explicación
    de las razones para cometer este injustificable y sangriento atentado
    contra la población civil.

    Comunicado de ELA, LAB, ESK, STEE-EILAS, EHNE, ELB e HIRU con motivo de
    los atentados de Madrid

    Los sindicatos vascos rechazan la masacre y llaman a concentración


    Los sindicatos ELA, LAB, ESK, STEE-EILAS, EHNE, ELB e HIRU manifiestan
    su más absoluto rechazo de la masacre de ciudadanas y ciudadanos
    perpetrada esta mañana en Madrid.

    Ante este injustificable y sangriento atentado estos sindicatos
    manifiestan su condolencia con las familias y allegados de las personas
    muertas, su deseo de pronta recuperación de las personas heridas y su
    más sincera solidaridad con el pueblo de Madrid y en especial con su
    clase trabajadora.

    Para mostrar su rechazo de este atentado y la solidaridad con las
    víctimas ELA, LAB, ESK, STEE-EILAS, EHNE, ELB e HIRU llaman a los
    trabajadores y trabajadoras de Euskal Herria a realizar mañana, 12 de
    marzo, a las doce del mediodía paros y concentraciones de un cuarto de
    hora ante los centros de trabajo.

    Batasuna condena el atentado y rechaza que sea obra de ETA


    San Sebastián. -- El portavoz de la ilegalizada Batasuna, Arnaldo Otegi,
    ha asegurado en San Sebastián que ETA no es la autora de la "masacre" de
    Madrid y ha expresado su "más absoluto rechazo" de los atentados.

    Los portavoces de la ilegalizada Batasuna, Arnaldo Otegi, Pernando
    Barrena y Joseba Permach, han comparecido esta mañana en San Sebastián
    para ofrecer la posición oficial de la izquierda aberzale ante los
    múltiples atentados. En la comparecencia no se han permitido preguntas
    por parte de los periodistas.

    Arnaldo Otegi ha asegurado que "la izquierda abertzale no contempla ni
    como mera hipótesis que ETA esté detrás de lo ocurrido hoy en Madrid".
    "Ni por los objetivos ni por el modus operandi se puede afirmar que ETA
    esté detrás de lo ocurrido", ha aseverado.

    Acciones "absolutamente rechazadas"

    Otegi ha expresado su "plena solidaridad" hacia las víctimas y el
    conjunto del pueblo madrileño. "La izquierda aberzale quiere manifestar
    con claridad su más absol uto rechazo ocurrido hoy en Madrid", ha indicado.

    "Acciones indiscriminadas contra la población civil y los trabajadores
    que se dirigían a sus centros de trabajo son absolutamente rechazadas
    por la izquierda aberzale", ha afirmado.

    Por último, Arnaldo Otegi ha señalado que desde primera hora de la
    mañana ha informado al lendakari Juan José Ibarretxe y otras fuerzas
    políticas de la postura de la izquierda aberzale ante este atentado, que
    no ha dudado en calificar de "masacre".

    La "resistencia árabe"

    Otegi había atribuido los hechos a "un operativo de sectores de la
    resistencia árabe", en una entrevista concedida a Radio Popular de San
    Sebastián poco después de que se conocieran los atentados, en la que ha
    afirmado que no quería "ni contemplar como hipótesis que ETA esté detrás
    de estos atentados".

    "En primer lugar, porque ETA a lo largo de su historia siempre ha
    avisado de la colocación de explosivos", ha dicho Otegi, que ha afirmado
    que "todo parece apuntar a que efectivamente hoy no se ha producido
    ningún tipo de llamada".

    El hecho de que no se haya alertado de la colocación de las bombas
    "querría decir --según el dirigente de Batasuna-- que es una acción que
    se ha hecho buscando ese alto número de víctimas, pero además buscando
    un alto número de víctimas entre trabajadores y población civil".

    España, "fuerza de ocupación de Irak"

    Según ha afirmado a la emisora, lo primero que ha pensado cuando ha
    conocido los atentados es que "el Estado español mantiene fuerzas de
    ocupación en Irak y no hay que olvidar que ha tenido una responsabilidad
    en la guerra de Irak".

    "El modus operandi, el número elevado de víctimas y el modo de proceder
    a mí me da que pensar y ahora mismo tengo en la cabeza como hipótesis
    que efectivamente haya podido ser un operativo de sectores de la
    resistencia árabe", ha dicho.
    __________________________________________________ _____________
    Quote from fergus51
    I am not ready to believe the claim of the fundamentalist muslim group. It's the same group that claimed responsibility for last summer's blackout on the east coast, even though it was just a power glitch in Ohio. Apparently a similar eta plan was foiled before Xmas.
  7. by   molecule
    on the CNN instant poll 71% of responders are thinking Al Qaeda is responsible for the attack.

    The train bombings in Madrid were not characteristic of previous attacks by the Basque separatist group ETA, according to the director of the Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno.

    Joseba Zulaika said ETA historically has targeted government officials, police or military and random killing is not their style. <<<<<

    as we all know, our adventure war attack on Iraq moved us off our enemy, Al Qaeda and their financial backers, Saudi Arabia. We have made a devil deal with Pakistan now: US goes into the Hindu Kush to look for Osama and keeps mum about Pakistan exporting nuclear technology. Our pre-emptive war on Iraq [necessary only for the staging of campaign 2002] also has stopped dead the reform movement in Iran. BushII could not have made the world more dangerous had it been his goal.
  8. by   NurseHardee
    Yes, Bush's glib 'Bring 'Em On' stupidity is a specter stalking the planet. I bet the Europeans are really impressed now!

    Nurse Hardee
    Last edit by NurseHardee on Mar 12, '04
  9. by   donmurray
    A straw poll of Madrilenos this morning by a UK reporter shows most believing that ETA were responsible. The explosives were apparently of a type recently stolen and used by them in smaller scale bombs. Al Qaeda may have played an advisory role, kind of extending the franchise on mayhem.
    One thing that didn't impress this European was a reported comment from the US that "This will be a wakeup call for Europe!" Hello? We have spent the last 40 odd years living with ETA, Bader-Meinhoff and sundry other terrorist groups, not to mention the IRA. I think we haven't slept easy for a while now.
  10. by   fergus51
    Denials from the banned political wing of a terrorist organisation responsible for 800 deaths over the last 30+ years? An admission from a group that routinely admits to things it hasn't done? I'll take that all for what it's worth.

    I just don't think it's wise to jump to conclusions. It's just like when we were all sure the Oklahoma city bombing was the result of Iranians.
  11. by   fiestynurse
    Sadie04 - They are not recommended that American citizens travel to Spain at this time. My daughter is studying abroad in Florence, Italy right now. NYU also has a satellite school in Madrid. Alerts have been communicated to all the study abroad students and parents. NYU just cancelled the spring break trip to Madrid.
  12. by   mimslaru
    This terrorist attack is said to have happened 911 days after 9-11.
    Some reports have indicated Al Qaeda has, "taken credit", as I heard on the radio this morning.
  13. by   Havin' A Party!
    Hope I'm not misinterpretted, but seems to me the European nations have been a little too dismissive and uninvolved in dealing with world threats and terrorism in general. They've basically stood by and avoided their fair share of global responsibility.

    May some good come of this, yet another, terrible happening.
  14. by   molecule
    Larry your statement reflects the limited extent of America's knowledge of the rest of the world. England, France, Spain, Germany, Italy all have been targets of terror campaigns. Moreover we owe European intelligence thanks for their cooperation and help in the war on terror today. Indeed had we followed leads given the tragedy of 9/11/01 may have been prevented.
    The Europeans are neither dismissive, uninvolved nor avoidant.

    Did you know Nato forces are in Afghanistan?
    Here is some news from Germany that may interest you:
    The second trial of a suspected member of the Hamburg terror cell involved in the September 11 attacks opened in Hamburg on Thursday. The two cases are similar, but defense lawyers are hoping for a different outcome.
    Last edit by molecule on Mar 12, '04