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Terror attacks rock Spain.

On March 11, a series of explosions ripped through four commuter trains in Madrid, the capital of Spain. The blasts killed more than 200 people and injured some 1,500.

"I saw a lot of smoke," an eye-witness told The New York Times, "people running all over, crying."

Across the country, Spaniards gathered in public places to grieve--and to express anger over the deadliest terror attacks in Spain's history. "The first emotion is to identify the guilty parties and punish them very harshly," a Madrid businessman told a U.S. reporter.

Said Spain's Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar: "March 11, 2004, now holds its place in the history of infamy."

The attacks led to the defeat of the Prime Minister's conservative Popular Party three days later. In elections held on March 14, the opposition Socialist Party scored an upset victory and will take control of Spain's Parliament. The Socialists have elected their leader, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, as the country's new Prime Minister.

"My most immediate priority is to beat all forms of terrorism," Zapatero said after the elections.

Many Spaniards accused Aznar of misleading people after the attacks by blaming a Spanish separatist group for the violence.

Evidence soon revealed that the bombings were carried out by Islamic extremists, some with links to Al Qaeda. A man claiming to be an Al Qaeda spokesman in Europe said that the group wanted to punish Spain for its support of the Iraqi war.

Ninety percent of Spaniards were against the U.S.-led war, which Prime Minister Aznar supported. They blamed Aznar for making Spain a terrorist target.

Zapatero promised that the 1,300 Spanish troops in Iraq will leave that country in July unless the United Nations (UN) takes control of military operations. "I think Spain's participation in the war has been a total error," he said.

Threat to Democracy

After the attacks, U.S. officials tightened security at several rail stations. The Chicago Transit Authority made sure that all buses and trains had signs urging passengers to report suspicious packages or people.

On the diplomatic front, President George W. Bush and other world leaders responded to the charge that nations supporting the Iraqi war have made themselves more vulnerable to terrorism.

"Al Qaeda is not a threat that has emerged since the Iraq war," said a spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair. "It is not a threat that is aimed at particular countries or a particular group of countries. It is a threat to our way of life and to democracy."

Spaniards send a signal to terrorists: Stop the violence.
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Title Annotation:International
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Geographic Code:4EUSP
Date:Apr 5, 2004
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