ETA blamed as bombs kill 186, injure 1,000

11th March 2004, Comments 0 comments

11 March 2004, MADRID - Powerful explosions rocked three Madrid train stations Thursday killing at least 186 rush-hour commuters and wounding more than 1,000 in what officials believed was the deadliest attack by the Basque separatist group ETA.

11 March 2004

MADRID - Powerful explosions rocked three Madrid train stations Thursday killing at least 186 rush-hour commuters and wounding more than 1,000 in what officials believed was the deadliest attack by the Basque separatist group ETA.

The bombs exploded around 7.30am in a commuter train arriving at Atocha station, a bustling hub for subway, commuter and long-distance trains in Spain's capital.

Blasts also rocked trains or platforms at El Pozo and Santa Eugenia, two stations on a commuter line leading to Atocha.

The government said there were four blasts altogether.

People in tears streamed away from the station as rescue workers carried bodies covered in sheets of gold-coloured fabric.

Injured commuters with blood-stained faces sat on curbs, using mobile phones to tell loved ones they were alive.

Hospitals appealed for blood donations. Buses had to be pressed into service as ambulances.

The attacks traumatised Spain on the eve of Sunday's general election.

Rescue workers were overwhelmed, said Enrique Sanchez, an ambulance driver who went to Santa Eugenia station, about six miles southeast of Atocha station.

Shards of twisted metal were scattered by rails in the Atocha station at the spot where an explosion severed a train in two.

"I saw many things explode in the air, I don't know, it was horrible," said Juani Fernandez, 50, a civil servant who was on the platform waiting to go to work.

"People started to scream and run, some bumping into each other and as we ran there was another explosion. I saw people with blood pouring from them, people on the ground."

At least 131 people were killed and more than 400 were injured, said Pedro Calvo, the Madrid regional government's security affairs chief.

There was no claim of responsibility, but officials immediately blamed ETA. The toll would make Thursday the deadliest day ever in decades of attacks by ETA.

Until now, the highest death toll was 21 killed in a supermarket blast in Barcelona in 1987.

Before Thursday's bombs, ETA had been blamed for more than 800 deaths in its decades-old campaign to carve an independent Basque homeland out of territory straddling northern Spain and southwest France.

Spanish officials had claimed ETA was in crisis following the arrest last year of more than 150 members or collaborators in Spain and France, including the leaders of ETA's commando network.

Last week, police arrested two ETA members who were driving a lorry laiden with more than half a tonne of explosives heading for Madrid.

They told detectives they planned to disrupt the Royal wedding, between Crown Prince Felipe and former television presenter, Letizia Ortiz, on 22 May. 

Last year ETA killed three people, compared to 23 in 2000 and 15 in 2001.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news 

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