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Spain Blames ETA Separatists for Country's Worst-Ever Terrorist Attack - 2004-03-11


Powerful explosions ripped through three Madrid train stations Wednesday morning, killing at least 186 people and injuring 1,000. The government blames the Basque militant separatists, ETA, for Spain's worst-ever terrorist attack.

Spain's Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar vowed to hunt down those behind the bombings in Madrid Thursday, which, he said, was calculated to cause as much damage as possible.

The explosion sites were scenes of carnage, with dead people and body parts scattered over the platforms and mangled remains of train carriages.

The terrorist bombings shocked Spain less than two days before Sunday's hotly contested parliamentary elections.

Interior Minister Angel Acebes told a news conference the bombings of the packed commuter trains at three busy Madrid train stations were carried out by the Basque militant organization, ETA.

He says the government has no doubts that ETA is behind the bombings.

He told the media ETA militants attempted a similar attack by placing bombs in trains last Christmas. Spanish security forces, he said, just 10 days ago intercepted two vans loaded with explosives heading for Madrid.

But Arnold Otegi, leader of an outlawed Basque party linked to the separatist group, denied responsibility and said Arab resistance operatives were behind the blasts.

In his televised statement to the stunned nation, Prime Minister Aznar called the bombings a mass murder.

He says the government will hunt down the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

His government declared three days of mourning for the victims and called for nationwide anti-terrorist demonstrations to take place Friday evening.

Governments across the globe condemned the bombings. President Bush expressed solidarity and sympathy with the Spanish people and condemned the bombings as a vicious terrorist attack. European Commission President Romano Prodi called the bombings a criminal attack against defenseless people and Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the bombings as a senseless, barbaric action.