News / Europe

Spain Beefs Up Security, Remembers Victims of al-Qaida Bombings

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero attends a meeting to discuss security issues after the killing of Osama Bin Laden, at Moncloa palace in Madrid, May 3, 2011
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero attends a meeting to discuss security issues after the killing of Osama Bin Laden, at Moncloa palace in Madrid, May 3, 2011
Lauren Frayer

In 2004, Spain suffered Europe's worst act of Islamic terrorism when bombs blamed on al-Qaida killed 191 people at a Madrid train station.

In the wake of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden's death, Spain is reinforcing security and remembering its dead.

Terror in Madrid, March 11, 2004


After Sept. 11, 2001, the single most deadly al-Qaida-linked attack on the West happened at Madrid's Atocha train station. On March 11, 2004, 191 people died and more than 1,800 were wounded by bombs planted on four commuter trains.

Jesus and Gloria Seron lost a close relative, 37-year-old Federico Sierra Seron. A military officer, he was survived by his wife and three-year-old son.

Jesus Seron says considering what their family has been through, bin Laden's death is the best possible outcome.

But his wife says she's not so sure.

Gloria Seron says bin Laden's death represents neither a success, nor a failure. She says she appreciates that the al-Qaida leader is gone, but shrugs her shoulders when asked if Spain -- and the world -- are safer without him. She quotes an old proverb, saying "he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword."

The 2004 Atocha bombings -- which struck three days before Spain's general election that year -- had a profound affect on Spanish politics. At first, the center-right government blamed the Basque separatist group ETA for the attacks, and is thought to have lost the election because of that mistake. Investigators quickly revealed that Islamic militants inspired by al-Qaida had planted the bombs, in part because of Spain's participation in the Iraq war. Less than two months later, Spain's new Socialist government withdrew troops from Iraq.

More than two dozen suspects of Moroccan, Algerian and Syrian descent were charged in the Atocha bombings. Two are currently serving life sentences.

Future threats

In life, bin Laden inspired terrorists like those who killed 191 people here in Madrid. But Gloria Seron said she fears that in death, bin Laden could still do the same.

Seron says she's worried bin Laden could become a hero for other militants, and that his death could prompt more violence, by people trying to defend his name.

Spain's interior minister, Alfredo Perez Rubalcahba, echoed Gloria's feelings at a news conference in Madrid. He said he's relieved bin Laden is dead, but that it's not time for Spain to lower its guard.

Rubalcaba says without a doubt, bin Laden's death is a blow to al-Qaida. But he says we can't rule out reprisal attacks. And he notes that Spain is well within striking distance of al-Qaida's North African branch, which is being investigated in a recent bombing at a tourist cafe in Morocco.

Spain is currently on terror alert level two, on a four-point scale. Rubalcaba said government ministers are meeting Tuesday to discuss new security measures, but that the terror alert level won't be raised. He wouldn't comment on security specifics.

Security barriers erected in 2004 remain outside Madrid's Atocha train station. On hearing news of bin Laden's death, Gloria and Jesus Seron passed through those barriers and stopped to gaze at a memorial built near the site where their relative and 190 others were killed.

Gloria Seron says nothing can bring her loved one back. She says the only thing that remains is to prevent such attacks from ever happening again.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs