- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 24, 2004

MADRID — World leaders, dressed in black, joined Spanish royalty and families of the 190 victims of Madrid’s train bombings at a state funeral yesterday for those killed in the nation’s worst terrorist attack.

On a cold, overcast day, King Juan Carlos and the rest of the royal family joined Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Prince Charles, French President Jacques Chirac and more than a dozen other heads of state or government in the 19th century Almudena Cathedral for the Mass.

“We have cried, and we have cried together,” Spanish Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela told the congregation of about 1,500.

The royal family sat up front. Immediately behind them were members of the Spanish government and other politicians, including Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and his successor, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Foreign dignitaries sat on the left side of the aisle.

“Great pain has filled your lives and those of your families since that black day in which brutal terrorist violence, planned and executed with unspeakable cruelty, ended the lives of your most beloved,” Cardinal Rouco Varela said.

Before the Mass began, one unidentified man in the congregation shouted, “Mr. Aznar, I hold you responsible for the death of my son.”

Many Spaniards have accused Mr. Aznar of provoking the bombings by supporting the U.S.-led war in Iraq, and his party lost the national election three days after the attacks to Mr. Zapatero’s Socialists.

Mr. Zapatero has pledged to withdraw the estimated 1,300 Spanish troops now serving in Iraq.

During the service, Spain’s Queen Sofia wiped away tears, and the king held a handkerchief to his face. In the congregation, one woman broke down in sobs, shaking with grief as a male companion put his arm around her.

As the Mass ended, the king and queen and members of the royal family went from row to row, clasping the hands of the bereaved or kissing them on the cheek.

Neither Mr. Aznar nor anyone from his government went to meet grieving relatives.

The Mass brought much of Madrid to a standstill. Spanish national television broadcast the service, along with an on-screen list of the names of all 190 bombing victims.

Giant-screen TVs were set up in a cobblestone courtyard outside the cathedral, in a Royal Palace garden, and in Puerta del Sol, a bustling plaza where one of several makeshift memorials to the victims sprang up the day after the bombings.

Spaniards have suffered from terrorism before — militant Basque separatists have launched attacks for decades, with the highest death toll being 21 in 1987.

But the March 11 rail attacks, in which Islamist extremists are the prime suspects, have dwarfed that figure. Besides the dead, more than 1,800 people were injured when 10 bombs concealed in backpacks ripped through four crowded commuter trains during the morning rush hour.

Suspicion for the train bombings has focused on a Morocco-based terrorist cell linked to al Qaeda and on al Qaeda itself.

Spanish police have identified five of eight persons they suspect carried out the bombings, including the suspected cell leader, news reports said yesterday.

Authorities have arrested 15 suspects in connection with the bombings — 11 Moroccans, two Indians, one Algerian and a Spaniard. Thirteen remain in custody, of whom nine have been charged and jailed pending further investigation. One Moroccan and the Algerian have been released.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide