On this day: the Madrid train bombings

March 11 2004: Terrorism in Spain


Exactly two years and six months after terrorists struck the World Trade centre, a similarly-inspired group bombed ten sites in Madrid, including the busy interchange at Atocha station.

More than 190 people were killed and 1,800 were injured in the attacks, which occurred three days before the Spanish general election. At the vote, the Spanish people voted then Prime Minister, Jose Aznar, out of office.

Aznar had supported the invasion of Iraq, and for many in Spain the bombings were a sign he should not have.

Terror was not new to Spain and initially Basque separatist group Eta was blamed by the authorities. But a group by the name of called “Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades of Al-Qaeda” released a statement claiming responsibility for the massacre and describing it as “part of a settling of old accounts with Crusader Spain, the ally of the United States, in its war against Islam.”

A month after the bombings seven suspected terrorists blew themselves up to avoid arrest.
In the seven years since, Spanish courts have convicted 18 militants for their roles in the bombings.

What the JC said: As Spain’s now-former Foreign Minister, Ana Palacio, eloquently declared in the aftermath of the Madrid bombings, the only way effectively to confront terror is to recognise that it does not have a “cause” beyond the terrorists’ thirst for blood. It would be, she added, worse than naive to believe that free societies can somehow buy insurance against mass murder by calibrating their government’s policies with regard to what they imagine groups like Al-Qaeda might want them to do.

See more from the JC archives here.

    Last updated: 9:50am, March 14 2011