Madrid Bombing Victims Frustrated with Slow Justice
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
It's two years since terrorist bombs blew up commuter trains in Madrid. Those bombs killed 191 people and injured more than 1,700. Those who claimed responsibility for the attack said it was al-Qaida's revenge for Spain's participation in the war in Iraq. Many of the victims, who are still struggling to rebuild their lives, say they feel angry and used by politicians. Jerome Socolovsky reports from Madrid.
JEROME SOCOLOVSKY reporting:
Commemorations are being held around Madrid for the victims of the tragedy. A school band plays at one of the ceremonies. A bereaved mother there, dressed in black, with dark circles under her eyes, addresses the audience. Pilar Manjón has angry words for Spanish politicians who try to use the tragedy to promote their own agendas.
Ms. PILAR MANJÓN (President, Asociación 11-M Afectados del Terrorismo): (Speaking foreign language)
SOCOLOVSKY: Enough already of trying to manipulate our cry, she says. Enough already of asking are these dead ours or are they theirs? You know what? They either belong to everybody or to nobody, she adds.
Manjón's 20-year-old son Daniel was riding on one of the four so-called death trains that were ripped apart by bombs on the morning of March 11, 2004. Since the attacks, survivors and families of the dead have received tens of millions of euros in subsidies. They've also gotten free therapy, legal aid, career counseling and rent support. But Pilar Manjón, who heads an association of victims, says they are an uncomfortable reminder for some politicians.
Ms. MANJÓN: (Speaking foreign language)
SOCOLOVSKY: They don't want to look at us. They don't want to see us. But we exist, she says, as the audience in the packed hall shows its approval.
(Soundbite of applause)
SOCOLOVSKY: Many of the association's members blame former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, at least indirectly, for the death of their loved ones. They accuse Aznar's successors in the conservative Popular Party of trying to divert attention from his support for the war in Iraq. The Popular Party says it honors all terrorist victims. But lately its members have been raising doubts that al-Qaida was behind the bombings. They've also suggested that the Basque separatist group ETTA may have been involved. ETTA has staged hundreds of bombings and shootings in Spain since the 1960s. Such speculation infuriates Daniel's father, Eulogio Paz.
Mr. EULOGIO PAZ (Father of Daniel Paz Manjón): (Speaking foreign language)
SOCOLOVSKY: My son Daniel is not a victim of ETTA. I have to make this clear, he says. I'm against all kinds of terrorism, but I don't want them to lie about my son's death. It's bad enough that he's dead. Daniel is a victim of an Islamic terrorist attack that resulted from the war in Iraq.
Spanish police have arrested more than 100 suspected Islamist militants in the case.
A group of victims has come for therapy at a neighborhood center near the Santa Eugenia station, where one of the trains exploded. Jesus Ramirez keeps wondering what motivated the terrorists.
Mr. JESUS RAMIREZ (Victim of 2004 Madrid commuter train bombing): (Speaking foreign language)
SOCOLOVSKY: Did they achieve anything? Is Iraq a decent place now? Is the Middle East any better off, he asks. They've robbed the lives of 191 people and destroyed the lives of their families, for what, he adds.
On the morning of March 11, 2004, Ramirez was on his way to his graphic design job. An instant later, he was on the floor of the train, with burns all over his body and shredded metal piercing his flesh. He says he'll forever be haunted by the vision of rescue workers deciding whether to save him first or another of the mutilated victims around him.
For NPR News, I'm Jerome Socolovsky, in Madrid.
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