Thursday, March 11, 2004

.....Bombing Update...

People are in complete shock at the extent of the murder and carnage that has occurred outside of their front windows, as opposed to distant TV images of Iraq. The metros were silent this evening, void of the usual Spanish chatter as the people finally had a private moment to digest what has happened.

It is a line that over forty thousand people use daily. With almost 200 killed and over twelve hundred injured it is easy to imagine most people having being touched somehow or other by the tragedy. In a new class of mine, a lady who was six months pregnant was killed by the blast. My neighbours father is fighting for his life. I have also heard of a six month old baby being orphaned.

The sorrow is turning to anger as people point the finger at the Basque Separatist Group ETA, who are already on their last legs due to recent crackdowns. This evening there was an impromptu demonstration against ETA in the main square, Sol. The people are chanting "Basta ya" which would translate as " Too much already". Tomorrow evening the government have called for nationwide demonstrations at seven o clock. It is expected that the numbers will equal that of the last Anti War demonstration when almost two million turned out in Madrid alone.

The television footage is horrific. The TV stations here spare the viewers nothing. I dare not put all that I have seen in print. The injuries include loss of sight, loss of hearing and loss of limbs. A huge number of injuries are due to splintering glass. Many of the injured are foreign workers from Morocco and Poland and so pleas to the public have been made for translators to come forward. Hospitals are full and so gymnasiums and school halls are also being used to treat the wounded.

Undoubtedly the attackers planned to detonate the first train (with most casualties) inside of the train station. Fortunately for us all it exploded on its approach, as it is one of the main stations with metro lines also passing through it, that we all use daily.

Up until now the people never had an immediate sense of fear of the ETA activities ever interfering with their own lives. Formerly the attacks were limited to the government and security forces. I always noticed that friends of mine from military families always seemed to be the only ones who would become highly excited during conversations about ETA, while the rest would tell them to stop blowing things out of proportion and to relax a little. Now this will all have changed......they were right.

The first ETA bombing was in 1968. Amongst the higher profile bombings by ETA was the 1973 assassination of General Francos appointed successor, Carrero Blanco, aswell as an attempt on the life of the present Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar, nine years ago (before his term of office). How he survived that massive car bomb is nothing short of a miracle. The last large massacre committed by ETA was a number of years ago when a bomb exploded in a supermarket, murdering 21 innocent people. ETA apologised profusely on that occasion.

Perhaps people are too ready to blame ETA. They may well be correct as all of the circumstances certainly point to this group. Afterall an ETA attack is always carried out during the Spanish National Elections. However only months ago we were told that the spine of this organisation had finally been broken. What is more, never before have ETA acted so brutally in this manner or on this scale. It would be a completely new departure for ETA if it does turn out to be the case.

Some people are suspicious of AL Qaeda involvement. This is possible given Aznars unequivocal support for Bush in Iraq. Indeed there is a huge Muslim Moroccan Population here in Spain. The government, even if this was true will be slow to admit such suspicions with the elections looming, especially as Al Qaeda involvement would kill their re-election hopes, whereas ETA involvement should propel them easily back into office.
Madrid simply no longer feels like Madrid.