Spain marks bombing anniversary three years on

12th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

12 March 2007, MADRID - Spaniards marked the third anniversary of the terrorist attacks in Madrid that killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,800 others.

12 March 2007

MADRID - Spaniards marked the third anniversary of the terrorist attacks in Madrid that killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,800 others.

King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, accompanied by Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Crown Prince Felipe and his wife Princess Letizia, and other high-level figures, presided at a solemn ceremony inaugurating the monument raised in memory of the victims before central Madrid's Atocha train station, the scheduled destination of the commuter trains that were attacked.

Amid a deeply respectful silence, the monument was unveiled, an enormous transparent crystal cylinder that reflects the light, 11 metres (34 feet) high and fashioned of some 15,000 bricks of solid glass.

The structure consists of two parts: the cylindrical upper portion of luminous glass rising from the level of the square, and the interior, which can be visited by entering a subterranean viewing chamber from where one can look up into the hollow cylinder.

From inside the structure, one can read the names of the victims of the attack inscribed in the glass as well as the printed messages - displayed underneath a transparent membrane coating the cylinder's interior - left by people in March 2004 at the improvised altars that sprang up at the Atocha station after the strikes.

There are hundreds of deeply moving messages of solidarity, of pain and sorrow, of rejection and repudiation of the attacks - and some of hope - written in different languages including phrases like "We'll never forget you" and "One needs a lot of imagination to bear reality."

The Spanish monarchs placed a laurel wreath at the foot of the slightly oval tower and observed three minutes of silence in memory of the victims, after which a lone cellist played the strains of "El canto de los pajaros" (Song of the Birds) a traditional Catalan folkloric piece made popular by Pau (Pablo) Casals.

About 1,500 relatives of those killed and wounded, as well as injured survivors of the attacks attended the brief but solemn ceremony at which some family members displayed a sign demanding that former interior mnister Angel Acebes and former prime minister Jose Maria Aznar bear their share of responsibility in the circumstances surrounding the strike.

Aznar's conservative government, which committed Spanish troops to the Iraq operation in the face of massive domestic opposition, rushed to blame the Madrid attack on the Basque terrorist group ETA.

But by the time Spaniards went to the polls for the 14 March general elections, the evidence pointing to radical Muslims as the perpetrators of the bloodbath was overwhelming, and the governing Popular Party was upset by the Socialists.

Yet the PP has continued to insist on a possible ETA role in the train bombings, despite repeated statements from police and judicial investigators that they have found no signs of involvement by the Basque group, which has killed more than 830 people since 1968 in its quest for an independent Basque nation comprising parts of northern Spain and southwestern France.

In addition to the official homages organised to commemorate the attack, other acts of remembrance were staged by residents in some of the towns where the bombs detonated aboard the morning rush-hour commuter trains bringing workers in to Madrid or the towns from where they had departed.

Residents of the Madrid neighborhood of Vallecas commemorated the third anniversary of the terrorist attack with two ceremonies at the El Pozo and Santa Eugenia train stations, where explosions killed 89 people and wounded many more.

About 500 people also gathered in front of the commuter train station in the town of Torrejon de Ardoz, where a manifesto was read expressing the public's "commitment not to forget."

In other cities in Spain - including Seville in the south, Santiago de Compostela in the far northwest and San Sebastian in the northern Basque Country - the victims were also remembered with flowers, candles and solemn musical performances.

The third anniversary of the horrific attacks comes as the mass trial of 29 people accused of helping plan and stage the attacks is under way in the capital. Seven men considered to be the material authors of the attacks blew themselves up in the town of Leganes in early April 2004 as police were closing in on them.

The anniversary also comes at a moment of great tension between the socialist government and the conservative Popular Party opposition, which accuses the administration of weakness in its dealings with ETA and which on Saturday called hundreds of thousands of people into the streets for a demonstration to that effect.

The country's No. 2 socialist, Jose Blanco, on Sunday reproached PP chief Mariano Rajoy for allegedly forgetting to mention the victims of the war in Iraq and of the March 11 terror strikes in the massive demonstration on Saturday against the government's anti-terrorism policy.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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