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Schroeder warns of longstruggle with terrorism

11 March 2004

BERLIN – A grim German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder warned Thursday that the Madrid attacks showed Europe was facing a long struggle with a new type of terrorist violence.

Schroeder, speaking at a news briefing with Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, said he was aghast at the Madrid bombings which killed at least 171 people and left over 700 injured.

Spanish authorities were calling the bombings the worst terrorist onslaught in Spanish history. Many of the deaths occurred after at least three simultaneous explosions in a commuter train at Atocha station in the centre of the capital.

“This is a dimension of terror which did not exist in Europe in recent times,” said Schroeder, adding: “It’s a new quality.”

The Chancellor underlined that Europe faced a long-term struggle with terrorism.

“It’s here to stay for a long time,” he said.

But Schroeder cautioned it was too early to talk about possible motives and perpetrators.

Balkenende termed the bombings “a terrible attack in Madrid.”

“Our thoughts are with the families of those killed or injured,” he said.

In another German reaction, Federal President Johannes Rau said he was “aghast” over the death of so many innocent people.

“We are mourning with you and the Spanish nation,” said Rau in a telegram to Spanish King Juan Carlos I.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer expressed “horror” over the attacks in a letter to his Spanish counterpart Ana Palacio.

“It was with outrage that we heard the news of this morning’s bomb attacks in Madrid,” said Fischer.

“These abhorrent acts of terror – with so many victims – fill us with deep sadness and disgust,” Fischer said, adding that Germany was standing in solidarity with the people of Spain.

Meanwhile, European Union members and countries around the world reacted with outrage at the deadly terrorist bombings in Madrid, terming the attacks three days before general elections a blow aimed at Spain’s democracy.

Two other commuter trains were targeted in the rush-hour bombings, that Spanish Interior Minister Angel Acebes blamed on ETA Basque separatists.

In the German city of Frankfurt, about 150 employees of the European Central Bank gathered before the bank headquarters in a memorial service. Some of the employees held placards condemning international terrorism.

Bertie Ahern, prime minister of Ireland and the current holder of the EU revolving presidency, said “the timing of the bombings was clearly designed to wreak the greatest level of havoc and carnage. They are an attack on the democratic process and cannot be justified by any political means.”

European Commission President Romano Prodi appeared before reporters in Brussels to read out a statement condemning a “senseless, perverse and disgusting act” and promising immediate civic crisis help to Spain.

“We are all victims of the attack,” Prodi said before leading journalists in a minute’s silence in memory of the Spanish victims.

Subject: German news