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Twenty years later, Spain and Europe pay tribute to the victims of the “11-M” Islamist attacks

Spain and the European Union pay solemn tribute on Monday to the 192 victims of 17 nationalities murdered 20 years ago to the day ;agrave; Madrid in attacks which marked the start of mass Islamist attacks in Europe.

These bombings, claimed by Al-Qaeda, the jihadist organization led by Osama bin Laden, are the deadliest ever to occur in Europe, if we except the explosion in 1988 above Lockerbie, in Scotland, of Pan Am flight 103, which left a total of 270 dead.

Organized by the European Commission, the ceremony began shortly before 12:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m. GMT) at the Galerie des Royal Collections, a museum located near the Royal Palace in Madrid, in the presence of King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia, as well as the European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.

March 11 is celebrated in Europe as the “European Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Terrorism”.

“We know that we are not alone”, said in his opening speech by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, referring to the 27 EU member states “united in diversity”.

But many other tributes are planned throughout the day. The first took place at 9:00 a.m. local time on the famous “Puerta del Sol”, with the participation of the mayor of Madrid and the president of the region, who laid a wreath.

< p>At the sites where the bombs exploded twenty years ago, relatives of the victims, but also residents of Madrid left bouquets of flowers, candles or portraits of people who lost their lives.< /p>

At Atocha station, the epicenter of the attacks, passers-by gathered in front of a cobalt blue underground memorial inaugurated the evening before and which replaces a previous monument, dismantled due to extension work on a metro line.

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

– “Breakage” –

Twenty years later, Spain and Europe pay tribute to the victims of the “11-M” Islamist attacks

Demonstration in solidarity with the victims of the attack of March 12, 2004 in Madrid, March 14, 2004, in Barcelona © AFP – CESAR RANGEL

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

The September 11 attacks in the United States, which left nearly 3,000 dead, took place two and a half years earlier, but Europe does not yet automatically think of Al-Qaeda.

“On March 11, 2004, 20 years ago to the day, Islamist terrorism struck Europe massively for the first time”, declared in Arras (north of France) French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal.

“This date remains like a break for our continent. We understood that we too were targets . We understood it hard, so hard,” he added during a ceremony honoring the victims of terrorism.

The attacks at the Atocha station, called in Spain “the 11-M”, take place in a very charged political context, since the country is in the home stretch of an electoral campaign, with legislative elections due to take place three days later.

The Popular Party (right) of outgoing Prime Minister José María Aznar is favored against the Socialist Party of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

A year earlier, Madrid decided to side with the United States and participate in Saddam Hussein's invasion of Iraq, despite public opposition Spanish.

– Three convicts still imprisoned –

The government immediately designates ETA as responsible for the massacre of 'Atocha and will never give up, despite the accumulation of evidence to the contrary.

Above all, al-Qaeda claims responsibility for the attacks, presenting them as retaliation for Spain's participation in the war in Iraq.

On Sunday the 14th, Spaniards voted massively and give victory to the socialists. For analysts, the disastrous management of the attacks by the Aznar government played a key role in this surprise result. Even today, some see it as one of the first examples of disinformation, a term that was not used at the time.

Twenty years later, Spain and Europe pay tribute to the victims of the “11-M” Islamist attacks

A woman visits the memorial honoring the victims of the 11-M bombings at Atocha station in Madrid, March 10, 2024 © AFP – OSCAR DEL POZO

After three years of investigation, 29 accused, the vast majority Moroccans, were tried in 2007 in Madrid. On appeal, 18 are convicted.

Today, only three of them – two Moroccans, sentenced to sentences of nearly 43,000 years in prison, and one Spaniard sentenced to nearly 35,000 years – are still behind bars, where they will likely remain until 2044.

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

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