Spain marks fifth anniversary of Madrid bombings

11th March 2009, Comments 0 comments

The Spanish government’s low-key manner of remembering those killed in the Madrid train bombings has led to criticism from an association of March 11 victims.

MADRID – Spain marked the fifth anniversary of the Madrid train bombings, Europe's worst terror attack, on Wednesday in a low-key fashion which drew criticism from relatives of the 191 victims.

Lawmakers marked a minute of silence in parliament and Crown Prince Felipe and his wife Princess Letizia are scheduled to attend a concert in Madrid on Wednesday evening in memory of the victims.

But unlike in previous years, neither Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero nor King Juan Carlos will attend any official commemorative act.

"We have passed into the background ... We are not interesting anymore," Pilar Manjon, who lost her 20-year-old son in the attacks and serves as president of an association of March 11 victims, told El Pais.

She said the financial aid given to those suffering after-effects from the attacks was insufficient and called for the creation of a specialised section in the public prosecutor's office to deal with "jihadist terrorism".

Responsibility for the bombings was claimed by militants who said they acted on behalf of al-Qaeda to avenge the presence of Spanish troops in Iraq.

Zapatero scored a surprise win in an election three days after the bombings and he swiftly withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq.

Voters then were infuriated at the conservative government's insistence that the armed Basque separatist group ETA was to blame even though evidence pointed to Islamic extremists.

A Spanish court in October 2007 convicted 21 of the 28 defendants, mostly from north Africa, who stood trial in connection with the bombings. They were found guilty on charges ranging from weapons possession to mass murder.

The following year Spain's Supreme Court acquitted four of the 21 on appeal.

During the first anniversary of the attacks, traffic came to a standstill and poured out of office buildings to observe five minutes of silence but the commemorations have drawn less attention as the years go by.

AFP / Expatica

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