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

ASEAN Ministers Set to Push for South China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party 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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs