Spain remembers the 3/11 terrorist attack and lessons learned

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Monday is simply a somber day successful Spain.

Twenty years agone connected March 11, 2004, 10 bombs detonated almost simultaneously connected 4 commuter trains successful Madrid. The blasts initially killed 191 group and injured complete 1,800 commuters during nan greeting unreserved hour.

The Madrid train bombing is nan second-deadliest violent onslaught successful Europe, aft nan takedown of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, successful 1988.

Initial reports attributed nan Madrid onslaught to an independent section violent cell. But conclusive grounds has since connected nan train bombing pinch nan Sept. 11 onslaught successful nan United States, which had happened 30 months earlier. 

“We now know, based connected nan investigation that has been done by Spanish investigators, that nan onslaught of March 11 was an Al Qaeda operation,” said Bruce Riedel, a erstwhile CIA expert and an master connected nan Middle East. “And that nan compartment that carried retired nan cognition had besides been successful touch pinch nan compartment that had besides carried retired 9/11. So this is very overmuch applicable to Americans looking backmost astatine nan events of 9/11.”

Riedel served successful nan White House connected Sept. 11, 2001, arsenic a senior advisor to President George W. Bush. And he describes nan violent onslaught arsenic “the defining infinitesimal for Americans calved successful nan past half-century.” 

“9/11 was a nationalist trauma for nan United States. It led to a monolithic rally astir nan flag,” he said. “While we whitethorn person forgotten 20-something years later, location was bipartisan support for going into Iraq and toppling nan Taliban successful Afghanistan.”

But nan determination to spell into Iraq, Riedel said, would yet weaken that bipartisan support and polarize nan state betwixt those successful favour and those against nan war.

Nevertheless, he besides pointed retired that successful summation to some wars, Sept. 11 transformed nan American authorities pinch nan creation of nan Department of Homeland Security and nan National Counterterrorism Center.

In Spain, pinch nan bombing happening conscionable 3 days earlier nan nationalist election, nan state faced heavy divisions.

“The disunity stemmed from differing attributions of blasted for nan commuter train massacre,” terrorism master Fernando Reinares wrote successful nan book “Al-Qaeda’s Revenge,” which contains a guardant from Riedel and received an grant from nan relation for nan victims of 3/11.

Madrid Train Blasts Cause DevastationA assemblage is lifted from nan wreckage of a commuter train successful Madrid connected March 11, 2004.Bruno Vincent / Getty Images

“The aftereffects of that disunity persisted for good complete a decade,” Reinares wrote, breaking them down successful nan book.

Those connected nan correct tended to judge that ETA, nan Basque nationalist and separatist statement classified arsenic a violent group by Spain, was implicated successful nan Madrid bombing, arsenic nan Spanish authorities initially reported. And those connected nan near tended to judge that nan bombing was payback for Spain’s information successful nan Iraq War.

Both beliefs, Reinares wrote, are false.

“There is nary nonstop aliases indirect grounds that ETA was someway progressive successful nan explosive attacks. Nor is it existent that nan thought of perpetrating a massacre successful Madrid originated successful consequence to nan beingness of Spanish soldiers connected Iraqi soil,” he wrote.

Reinares pointed retired successful nan book that nan determination to transportation retired a violent onslaught was made successful December 2001 successful Karachi, Pakistan. And recruitment efforts for a 3/11 web began successful March 2002, “well complete a twelvemonth earlier nan Iraq penetration would return place.”

In Spain, nan thought of a section location group being nan mastermind of nan Madrid onslaught persisted, moreover aft nan National Court handed down sentences ranging from 3 to 43,000 years successful 2007 over nan train bombings.

One of nan main targets of nan Spanish investigation, Amer Azizi, whom an indictment called a leader of a Spanish Al Qaeda cell and who was indicted a period aft nan 3/11 attacks connected charges of helping scheme nan 9/11 violent attacks was still astatine ample during nan trial.

The 2022 documentary “11M: Terror successful Madrid” reported that his decease became publically known aft Al Qaeda confirmed it successful 2009.

“Azizi’s value was not understood until he was killed pinch his boss, Hamza Rabia,” Manuel R. Torres, a governmental subject professor astatine Pablo de Olavide University, said successful nan documentary.

According to Reinares’ book, Azizi sewage support from Al Qaeda for an onslaught connected Madrid and became a cardinal go-between of nan apical leaders of nan violent statement successful Pakistan and nan 3/11 web successful Spain.

In retrospect, Riedel said that underestimating Al Qaeda and shifting attraction to Iraq was a large correction that costs some nan U.S. and Spain lives and money.

“We should person kept our oculus connected nan shot and continued aft 9/11 to prosecute Al Qaeda relentlessly until we had destroyed nan leadership. Instead, we went into nan incorrect godforsaken and chased nan incorrect bad guy,” he said.

“I deliberation 3/11 and 9/11 underscore nan value of nan United States and Europe moving together against our communal enemies,” Riedel said, “and to that grade it underscores nan value of having a NATO confederation that brings Americans and Europeans together erstwhile we look vulnerable crises.”

Arturo Conde

Arturo Conde is an editor and a bilingual freelance journalist. He writes for La Opinión A Coruña and has been published successful Fusion, Univision and City Limits.