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Twenty years after "11-M", Europe honors all the victims of attacks in a divided Spain

Europe honoredé Monday à Madrid the memory of all the victims of terrorism on the continent, at on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the attacks the 2004 bomb which left 192 dead in the Spanish capital.

But the multiple tributes to the victims of these Islamist attacks of March 11, 2004 (called in Spain “11-M”), the deadliest ever to occur on European soil, have above all highlighted how much the country still remained politically divided on this subject.

The European institutions had decided in March 2004 to make March 11 the “European Day of Commemoration of the Victims of Terrorism”, celebrated each year in a different country.

Organized by the European Commission and chaired by King Felipe VI, the official ceremony took place at the Gallery of Royal Collections, a museum located near the Royal Palace in Madrid, in the presence of a few hundred personalities.

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas and King Felipe stressed how united the 27 EU member states were in the face of this scourge.< /p>

“The history of terrorism in Europe is the history of shared suffering, but also of solidarity between all Europeans”, affirmed the sovereign.

“We know that we are not alone,” added Mr. Sánchez, highlighting “27 countries united in diversity”. He also considered that “acting against the causes which fuel regional conflicts means preventing fanatics from transforming despair into a weapon to attack the principles of freedom and respect for human rights.”

– “Irreparable” –

For her part, the widow of one of the 192 people of 17 nationalities who perished on March 11, 2004, Ana Cristina López Royo, described a day “that fractured our lives beyond repair.”

Many other tributes took place first thing in the morning in the Spanish capital. Some spontaneous, like the bouquets of flowers, candles or portraits of people who lost their lives 20 years ago left at the site where the bombs exploded by relatives of victims, but also by residents.

Others, on the other hand, have above all illustrated the fact that the political wounds born from the 11-M attacks remain as raw as 20 years ago.

This Thursday March 11, 2004, shortly after 7:30 a.m., during rush hour, ten devices exploded in the space of a few minutes aboard four commuter trains in or near Atocha station, located in the heart of Madrid.

Faced for several decades with a bloody campaign by the Basque separatist group ETA, Spain had a sad habit of bomb attacks, even if it had never been targeted by an attack of this magnitude.

Immediately, the right-wing government of Prime Minister José María Aznar designated ETA as responsible for the Atocha massacre and did not will not budge, despite the accumulation of evidence to the contrary.

Quickly, al-Qaeda, the jihadist organization led by Osama bin Laden, claimed responsibility for the attacks, presenting them as retaliation for Spain's participation in the war in Iraq alongside the United States.

– “Lies” and “infamy” –

In the monster demonstrations which took place on March 12, the government was taken to task with virulence, Mr. Aznar being called a “liar”. Two days later, on March 14, legislative elections took place which his party lost to the Socialists.

In the months that followed, his detractors criticized Mr. Aznar of having wanted to hide the responsibility of al-Qaeda for fear that the Spaniards would make his party pay at the polls for its decision the previous year to participate in the invasion of Iraq alongside the United States despite the opposition of Spanish public opinion.

Twenty years later, the debate is still not closed. The days leading up to the anniversary saw numerous personalities once again questioning Mr. Aznar's attitude at the time.

Monday, the foundation FAES, chaired by the former Prime Minister, published a long press release, described as a “right of reply”, to defend Mr. Aznar's management of the crisis during these days, denying that he suppressed information implicating al- Qaeda and violently attack the left.

This vitriolic text triggered a verbal fistfight, a socialist leader, Alfonso Rodríguez Gómez de Celis, asserting during a press conference that “lies and infamy” remained the hallmark of the right.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116