11 March 2005

Spain Remembers 3/11...

Prayers and Smoke for the people of Madrid...


Madrid Remembers Train Bombings

People across Spain are marking the first anniversary of the Madrid train bombings in which 191 were killed.

Bells from Madrid's 650 churches tolled for five minutes from 0737 (0637 GMT) when the first of 10 co-ordinated blasts hit commuter-packed trains.

A five-minute silence was held at midday before the opening of Madrid's Park of the Absent, where trees have been planted to remember the victims.

Some survivors are boycotting events, complaining of political manipulation.

The explosions came three days before a general election, in which the Socialists ousted the right-wing Popular Party (PP) of then Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.

The government initially blamed armed Basque separatists Eta for the attacks, an error which is widely believed to have contributed to the Popular Party's unexpected defeat.

The PP is still convinced there could be a further link to Eta - and this has led to rancorous disagreement with the governing Socialists.

Responsibility for the attack was claimed by a Moroccan cell with links to al-Qaeda, and most of those who have been arrested are Moroccan citizens.

Spanish investigators say they have now clarified key aspects of the attack in an inquiry that has spanned six countries.

Victims' boycott

After the five-minute silence at midday, the Song of the Birds of cellist Pablo Casals was performed before dignitaries including King Juan Carlos, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Morocco's King Mohamed VI and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Elsewhere, trains made unscheduled stops at stations and people stopped in the street.

At the railway stations targeted in the country's worst-ever attack, people wept as memories of the blasts returned.

"Who will give me back my will to live which died here a year ago?" read a letter posted by Susana, a woman who said she was injured in the blasts at El Pozo station - where the deadliest of the four attacks occurred.

This is not a day of political speeches, says the BBC's Katya Adler in Madrid.

The survivors of the bombings and the families of those who died have appealed for a quiet day of sorrow.

The Association of Madrid Bombing Victims says it has decided to boycott all the events.

They have complained that their pain has been used as a political football, as Spain's main political parties continue to bicker about who may have manipulated the events surrounding the bombings to try to win the general election that followed three days later.

Anti-terrorism drive

Ten bombs exploded on four trains in the early hours of 11 March 2004 in what Spaniards refer to as "our 11 September" - a reference to the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US.

More than 100 people have been detained and 22 of them remain in prison awaiting trial.

The public prosecutor in the case says there is no doubt that Islamic militants were behind the bombings.

The country has also set up a centre to co-ordinate anti-terrorism activities, bringing together different security forces and agencies in Spain.

An anti-terror summit in Madrid - held in the run-up to the anniversary - ended on Thursday with a document entitled Madrid Agenda.

It said spreading democracy and boosting international co-operation were priorities in fighting terrorism.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/03/11 12:17:14 GMT



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