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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs