Hundreds of people congregated inside Madrid’s Retiro Park on Wednesday to commemorate the 11th anniversary of the March 11, 2004 train bombings that left 191 people dead and 1,800 injured in what remains the biggest terrorist attack ever carried out on European soil.
“The beast of jihadist terrorism has awakened,” said Terrorism Victims’ Association (AVT) president Ángeles Pedraza in front of a memorial garden known as the Bosque del Recuerdo (Forest of remembrance).
Justice Minister Rafael Catalá was the only member of the government to attend the tribute. Two months ago, the AVT criticized the ruling Popular Party (PP) over its terrorism policies and the “inaction that allowed” convicted ETA members to be released through the repeal of the Parot doctrine.
Socialist Party secretary general Pedro Sánchez was also present at the event, as was Madrid Mayor Ana Botella (PP), former Socialist prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, and other political leaders.
“My daughter should be with me today, but she has not been with me for over a decade,” said Pedraza, whose daughter Miryam was 25 when she boarded one of the commuter trains blown up by terrorists on March 11, 2004.
“The threat of jihadist terrorism in the Western world is real, and it requires a global response sustained over time,” she added, in reference to the recent arrests of individuals who had been planning to perpetrate new attacks in Spain and elsewhere in Europe.
But Pedraza, who had words of sympathy for the recent attacks in Paris and Copenhagen, rejected the shows of “unity by Europe’s political leaders if they are not accompanied by specific measures.”
She said that fighting terrorism required the introduction of measures aimed at preventing new attacks, giving government agencies the legal tools to convict the terrorists in the custody of the courts, and delegitimizing “fanatical” ideologies.
The AVT president also played down comments regarding the division between the various victims’ associations. “We get along just fine,” she said.
Following her speech, the crowd climbed the hill to attach hundreds of bouquets to the trunks of the cypress trees as a tribute to the victims.