Today Spain commemorates the first anniversary of the "11-M" (March 11) terrorist attack in Madrid, which took place one year ago today. The attack on the Madrid subway killed 191 people.
In the year since, Spanish authorities have made much progress in identifying and capturing the perpetrators. They have intensified their efforts against terrorism, with a greater focus on Islamic terrorism. The militant Basque separatist of the ETA group also continue to present a terrorism challenge to the Spanish government, a long-running problem that has yet to be fully solved.
As happens all too often with international issues, much of the American consciousness of the 11-M attacks and their significance has been buried in domestic US political rhetoric. In particular, the Foxists and OxyContin radio fans decided early on that the 11-M attacks were simply an effort by The Terrorists to get Spain to withdraw from Iraq. And, in this narrative, the cowardly Spaniards caved in to The Terrorists and withdrew their troops, allowing themselves to be intimidated by The Terrorists. That this narrative is almost entirely divorced from reality will make no difference to the Fox/OxyContin crowd. We know what loyal Bush supporters think of the "reality-based community."
In fact, there is every reason to think that the Spanish public and their leaders and officials are taking terrorism more seriously than ever. The 11-M attack was also taken by other EU countries as a reminder of how real and present a threat jihadist terrorism is in Europe, even though Spain plays a special role in the imaginations of the jihadists because it was for centuries the Islamic emirate of Al-Andalus.
As the Spiegel quotation below indicates, Europe still has many problems to overcome in joint efforts to combat terrorism. But the EU countries seem far more focused on the actual problems of preventing terrorism and breaking up terrorist plots than the United States, where the government was quick to define terrorism in Cold War terms as primarily a problem of "state sponsorship" to "rogue states." The EU countries have achieved far more visible successes in their investigations and prosecutions of terror suspects that John Ashcroft's Justice Deparment did.
Following are links to various articles on the 11-M attack.
Cadena Ser (Spain):
El Mundo (Spain):
Millones de personas recuerdan en silencio a las víctimas del 11-M 11.03.2005
La comunidad internacional, con España en el aniversario del 11-M 11.03.2005
11S-11M Dramas paralelos Special Report Sept 2004
11-M Massacre en Madrid Special Report. This site has a number of links (in Spanish)with photos, documents and El Mundo news articles on 11-M and the subsequent investigations.
Index to various El Mundo articles on 11-M
Cinco Días (Spain):
La salvaje irracionalidad que cercenó la vida de 192 personas de diferentes nacionalidades, razas y credos no consiguió, sin embargo, desmoralizar a los ciudadanos ni romper la convivencia pacífica. Alrededor de las víctimas mortales y de los más de 2.000 heridos que dejaron las bombas asesinas se erigió una solidaridad y una voluntad pocas veces vista en defensa de la vida y de la democracia.
[The savage irrationality that cut short the lives of 192 persons of different nationalities, races and creed did not, however, succeed in demoralizing the citizens nor in breaking up their peaceful coexistence. There arose around the mortal victims and the more than 2000 injured caused by the murderous bombs, a solidarity and a determination that are seldom seem in defense of the life of the democracy.]
Estrangular la financiación de Gijs de vries (Coordinador de la EU contra el terrorismo) 11.03.2005
Una ciudadanía unida frente a la barbarie terrorista de Federico Castaño 11.03.2005
El impacto económico deCarlos Solchaga (Ex ministro de Economía) 11.03.2005
'El 11-M reforzó la democracia en España' de Raquel Pascual 11.03.2005
'Los mercados no han aprendido a convivir con los atentados' 11.03.2005
La Razón (Spain):
Las campanas de Madrid doblan en recuerdo de las víctimas del 11-M (EFE) 11.03.2005
Gallardón apela a la «inexcusable unidad» en respuesta al atentado (eP) 11.03.2005
Der Spiegel (English):
Europe Continues to Stumble in its Fight against Terror by Dominik Cziesche, Marion Kraske, Holger Stark and Helene Zuber Der Spiegel 11.03.2005.
One year later, it is clear that the hoped-for urgency never happened. The implementation of European-wide resolutions adopted at the European Union level is often delayed at the national level, secret service data is still not being shared freely with the joint law-enforcement body Europol, and the sharing of information among EU members has proven slow at best.
At the same time, the situation in Europe has never been more dangerous -- the entire continent has become an anti-terror battlefield. "I think that it is only a question of time before an attack happens in Italy or England," says one highly placed German security officer. American experts also predict that the next large attack will take place in Europe.
EU anti-terror coordinator Gijs de Vries also has no illusions about the dangers facing Europe. "No country in Europe can consider itself safe. A number of planned attacks have already been averted."
Despite the title and tone of urgency of this article, it's striking to an American reader to see in its descriptionof specific arrests amd concrete actions targeting actual terrorist groups in Europe, which is in dramatic contrast the small number of such cases in the US. Many of the US prosecutions nominally under the anti-terrorism laws are actually related to crimes that are not "terrorism" in any normal sense of the word.
The Spain Terrorist Attack in Pictures 11.03.2005
Spaniards Pay Solemn Tribute to Victims of Terror Attacks by Renwick McLean New York Times 03/11/05
A Year After Madrid Attacks, Europe Stalled in Terror Fight by Pamela Rolfe Washington Post 03/11/05
Spaniards united in loss but divided on lessons by Lisa Abend Christian Science Monitor 03/11/05
Seventy five people have been implicated in the attacks; 28 of them are in Spanish custody. The investigations will probably continue for several more months, but judicial reports suggest that a loose network of individuals, some with connections to the Moroccan Islamic Combat Group, used criminal contacts and drug money to obtain the explosives that killed 191 people and injured more than 1,500 others at a Madrid train station.
Although many of those suspects had been monitored by the Spanish police, opinions differ as to whether the bombings could have been prevented. Manuel Navarrete, a counterterrorism expert in the Civil Guard, says Spanish security forces could not have predicted the attacks. "We didn't see the immense face of Islamist terrorism at the time," he says.
But Jose Maria Irujo, author of a recently published work on Al Qaeda in Spain, notes that although police and intelligence forces recognized that Spain was a staging ground for terrorist groups, they failed to realize that Spain itself was a target. "There was no central body through which information from the police, the National Intelligence Center, and the Civil Guard could be collected - each group worked independently," he says. "If we had had that center, March 11th could have been prevented."
Spain Marks March 11 Attacks with Silence, Sorrow Reuters 03/11/05
Church bells toll as Madrid remembers by Jenny Booth Times of London Online 03/11/05
Muslims issue fatwa against bin Laden by David Sharrock Times of London Online 03/11/05
Cleric accused over Madrid released as Spain grieves by Phillipe Naughton Times of London Online 03/11/05
Spain remembers victims of Madrid blasts Guardian (UK) 03/11/05
One year on, Spain remembers the atrocity that exposed a complacent government by Elizabeth Nash Independent (UK) 03/11/05
Police say they have foiled at least four bomb plots since last year's attack. But the government remains short of good, representative interlocutors in Spain's Islamic community, the spokesman admitted.
Those implicated in the bombings are mostly in jail, or dead, after seven, including the suspected ringleader Sarhane Ben Abdelmajid Farkhet "The Tunisian", blew themselves up on 3 April in a Madrid flat to avoid capture. But six to eight suspects linked to the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group remain on the run, probably outside Spain, the spokesman said. Spain is considered still at risk, but no more than Italy, Britain, France or Germany.
The investigation is helped by improved co-operation throughout Europe and with Morocco, the chief prosecutor, Olga Sanchez, said yesterday. Of 75 arrested over the bombings, 22 - mostly Moroccans - are in detention charged with mass murder and terrorism, 17 are on bail, and 33 at liberty but under suspicion. Spanish lawyers were awaiting the results of investigations in Europe and north Africa before proceeding to trial, possibly next spring, Ms Sanchez said. A Belgian court has approved the extradition of Youssef Belhadj, considered spokesman in Europe for al-Qa'ida, in whose name the bombings were claimed. Investigators also want to question the ideological leader Rabei Osman, jailed in Milan.