11 March 2004
MADRID – The Spanish government vowed Thursday that those behind bomb attacks in which 190 people died would “pay dearly”.
ETA, which has not yet claimed responsibility for the four explosions, often phones in warnings before detonating bombs.
But this time it did not, Interior Minister Angel Acebes said.
The bombs went off at the peak of the morning rush hour. No arrests were reported.
“Those responsible for this tragedy will be arrested and they will pay very dearly for it,” said Acebes as he visited the scene of the attack at Atocha station.
“This is a massacre,” government spokesman Eduardo Zaplana said.
The government convened anti-ETA rallies nationwide for Friday evening.
Across Spain Thursday, people were holding spontaneous minute silences for the victims.
“What a horror,” said the Basque regional president, Juan Jose Ibarretxe, who insisted ETA does not represent the Basque people.
“When ETA attacks, the Basque heart breaks into a thousand pieces,” he said in the Basque capital Vitoria.
“This is one of those days that you don’t want to live through,” said opposition Socialist party spokesman Jesus Caldera.
“ETA must be defeated,” referring to the group as “those terrorists, those animals.”
The attacks brought condemnation of the bombers outside Spain.
In London, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw called the attacks terrorist atrocities and a “disgusting assault on the very principle of European democracy.”
Straw said that Britain stood “shoulder to shoulder” with Spain and was ready to send any kind of material help needed.
Elsewhere, European Parliament President Pat Cox said the bomb attacks amounted to “a declaration of war on democracy.”
“No more bombs, no more dead,” Cox said in Spanish before a hushed legislature in Strasbourg, France.
“It is an outrageous, unjustified and unjustifiable attack on the Spanish people and Spanish democracy.”
Police had been on high alert for Basque separatist violence ahead of general elections Sunday, in which regional tensions and how to fight ETA have been key themes.
Mariano Rajoy, the candidate for prime minister of the ruling conservative Popular Party, said he was calling off the rest of his campaign.
The socialist candidate, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, leader of the main opposition PSOE, was expected to do the same.
Separatist tensions in regions like the Basque country have been an important issue in the election campaign.
Both the ruling conservative Popular Party and the opposition Socialists ruling out talks with ETA.
But the Socialists came in for withering criticism because a politician linked to the Socialist-run government in the Catalonia region, which also has strong separatist feeling, admitted secretly meeting with ETA members in France in January.
Josep Lluis Carod-Rovira, former deputy leader of the Catalan regional parliament, was forced to resign.
The Socialists were lambasted for allegedly undermining Spain’s fight against ETA.
ETA declared a truce only in Catalonia but promised to continue attacks in the rest of Spain.
On 29 February, police intercepted a Madrid-bound van packed with more than 1,100 pounds of explosives, and blamed ETA.
On Christmas Eve, police thwarted an attempted bombing at Chamartin, another Madrid rail station, and arrested two suspected ETA members.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news