Spain says still a target of terrorists

March 11, 2014 - 12:53:40 am
MADRID: A decade after 

Al Qaeda-inspired bombers blew apart four Madrid commuter trains, killing 191 people, Spain’s government warned the country remains a target.

On the eve of the 10th anniversary of Spain’s worst terrorist attack, Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz said Islamist extremists were still 

a threat.

Al Qaeda’s leaders and its affiliates, including north African group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and armed fighters battling the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, referred frequently in their statements to “Al Andalus”, or Spain, the minister told Onda Cero radio.

“Clearly Spain forms part of the strategic objectives of global jihad. We are not the only ones but we are in their sights obviously,” Fernandez Diaz said.

The Spanish counter-terrorist service’s alert level is at its second-highest category, signifying “a likely risk of attack”, a level that has not changed in recent years and is identical to that of most countries in the region, the Spanish minister said. Since the March 11, 2004 attack, 472 suspected Islamist extremists have been arrested, he said. In addition to the intelligence service, some 1,800 Spanish police and counter-terrorist security forces were devoted to confronting the threat, he said.

Fernandez Diaz later presided over a ceremony in Madrid to present civilian awards to 365 of those affected by the attacks.

“With this tribute we want to send a message to the people of Spain and the entire world: the victims of the cruelty and horror of terrorism should remain forever in our memory,” he said at the event.

Spanish courts sentenced 18 people for the shrapnel-filled bomb attacks that killed 191 people and injured more than 1,800 on four commuter trains heading for Madrid’s Atocha station.

“We were born again that day,” Andrei Stefan, a 46-year-old immigrant from Romania told AFP after the ceremony which he attended with his wife and children.

“This is very important for us. We came here, to Spain, to find another life and we could have found death,” added Stefan, who was injured in the bombings.

Emiliano Igual Alvarez, 67, another of the recipients of an award who was caught up in the bombings, said he “felt for those who did not survive to tell what happened”. AFP