Massacre in Madrid
Mar Roman • Associated Press -- Arab News
MADRID, 12 March 2004 — Ten terrorist bombs tore through trains and stations along a commuter line in Madrid during the height of morning rush hour yesterday, killing at least 190 people and wounding 1,247 ahead of weekend elections. The government blamed Spain’s worst terrorist attack on the Basque separatist group ETA.
“This is mass murder,” said a somber Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar after an emergency Cabinet meeting, vowing to hunt down the attackers and ruling out talks with ETA. “No negotiation is possible or desirable with these assassins who so many times have sown death all around Spain,” Aznar said.
The Interior Ministry said tests showed the explosives used in the attacks were a kind of dynamite normally used by ETA, which wants an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southwest France.
But Interior Minister Angel Acebes later said a tape with Qura’nic verses and seven detonators were found in a van suspected of being linked to the attacks. The van, which had been reported stolen, was discovered in the east of the capital, Acebes said.
A statement attributed to the Al-Qaeda terror network and sent to the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi claimed responsibility for the bombings and a suicide attack on a Masonic lodge in Istanbul two days earlier. The claim could not be independently verified.
The director of the European police organization Europol cast doubt on the government’s claim of ETA involvement. The bombings “don’t correspond to the modus operandi which ETA adopted up to now,” Juergen Storbeck told reporters during a visit to Rome. “ETA has always committed attacks targeted at particular people and if there was a danger to the public at large, they gave a warning.”
The fact that there was no warning in this case, said Storbeck, distinguished it from previous ETA bombings. That was why “it’s still not clear who the authors are”, he said.
The bombs started exploding around 7.30 a.m. in a commuter train arriving at Atocha station. Blasts also rocked trains and platforms at two other stations on a commuter line leading to Atocha.
Worst hit was a double-decker train at the El Pozo station, where two bombs killed 70 people. The bodies of the dead, some with their cell phones ringing unanswered as frantic relatives tried to contact them, were carried away by rescue workers. After the second of a series of blasts at Atocha, panicked passengers ran everywhere, including darkened tunnels “without thinking other trains could be coming,” a commuter said.
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