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Bomb inquiry report highly critical of Aznar’s role

1 July 2005

MADRID — The Spanish parliament approved the report of the inquiry into the Madrid terrorist attacks which was highly critical of the country’s previous conservative government for its conduct both before and after the bloodbath.

All factions in the lower house, except the conservative Popular Party(PP), now in opposition, endorsed the committee’s findings that the administration of then-prime minister Jose Maria Aznar did too little to protect Spain from the threat of Islamic terrorism.

It also found Aznar then sought to mislead the public about who carried out the train bombings that killed 191 and left more than 1,500 injured.

PP deputies, however, joined the rest of their colleagues in approving the portion of the report dealing with aid for victims of terrorism and measures to boost security.

The report comprises three sections, entitled “International Terrorism and the Government’s Response: Underestimating the Threat,” “March 11 and the Government’s Management of the Crisis: Manipulation of Information” and “Recommendations.”

The first portion of the document concludes that the state’s response to the threat was insufficient and characterised by “a clear underestimate of the risks”.

In the second part, it sharply criticises the conduct of Aznar and the then interior minister Angel Acebes.

“It can be said that the government’s conduct was motivated by its exclusive and exclusionary party interests,” the report said.

“The tragedy was followed by tendentious information on the government’s part that constantly suggested (the Basque terrorist group) ETA” was behind the bombings.

Based on all the data provided to the commission, it said: “There should not remain the least doubt that the authors of the attacks were Islamist radicals, ideological adherents of the jihad.”

“Not one bit of data,” according to the report, pointed to ETA playing any role in the bombings.

Aznar’s government, which had provided troops for the United States occupation of Iraq and was closely aligned with the Bush administration despite massive popular opposition to the war within Spain, is widely thought to have feared that, if radical Islamic authorship of the train attacks became known, people would see the assault as a response to Madrid’s support for Washington and would chastise the PP at the polls.

And in fact, the Socialists won a shock victory in the 14 March elections despite all previous polls pointing to a conservative victory.

The investigating panel met for more than 100 hours and heard from scores of witnesses, including Aznar and current prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero – the first-ever such appearances by any sitting or former Spanish premiers.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news