Spain wary of new menaces a decade after train bombs

Spain wary of new menaces a decade after train bombs
Shrapnel-filled bombs detonated at 7.40 am on March 11, 2004, in packed commuter trains headed to Madrid's main Atocha railway station, massacring 191 people and wounding about 2,000.

MADRID - A decade on, Spain remembers Tuesday as the day Al-Qaeda-inspired bombers ripped asunder four packed commuter trains, killing 191 people, as its security forces now grapple with new and emerging jihadist threats.

The Spanish royal family led by King Juan Carlos, as well as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, will join a mass for victims in Madrid's Almudena Cathedral, a solemn ceremony for a nation still wary of extremist Islamists and "lone wolves" lured to their cause.

The shrapnel-filled bombs detonated at 7.40 am on March 11, 2004, in packed commuter trains headed to Madrid's main Atocha railway station, massacring 191 people and wounding about 2,000.

For many survivors, the physical and psychological scars of the deadliest terrorist attack in Spanish history run deep.

'Fear always with you'

Antonio Gomez, a married 48-year-old bank computer designer with daughters now aged 10 and 15, was in a train at Atocha when a bomb detonated.

He was reading a newspaper that protected his face from the flying shards of shattered windows.

"But bits of glass embedded in the face of a little girl beside me," he recalled.

With a fellow passenger, Gomez said he managed to force open a door of the collapsed train, as people trampled over each other to escape onto the platform.

He called his pregnant wife on his cell phone.

"Just after telling her what happened and not to worry because I am all right, that is when the second bomb went off and the mobile was cut off," Gomez told AFP.

"The blast wave caught me and I fell to the platform, and the blow broke my left leg," he said.

"There were mutilated people, people thrown on the ground, people in a very bad state. I was one of the better off. It was Dantesque. I don't like to remember it." These days Gomez switches the channel when he sees television reports of the attack.

"It is not good, but I avoid it. On the 11th I will probably go to the cinema or watch the children's station Disney Channel," Gomez said.

Even now, he rarely travels by train. "The fear is always with you." Spanish courts eventually sentenced 18 people for the bomb attacks.

The seven chief suspects committed suicide on April 3, 2004, by blowing themselves up in an apartment near Madrid, also killing a policeman.

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