Statewatch article: RefNo# 25711
Carnage on the Madrid commuter line causes a rude awakening
Statewatch Bulletin; vol 14 no 1 January-February 2004
On 11 March 2004, Madrid woke up to find that it had suffered the worst terrorist attack since the 1930s. Ten bombs, hidden in rucksacks and plastic bags, exploded between 7.35 and 7.45 a.m. in El Pozo del Tio Raimundo, Santa Eugenia and Atocha train stations, the largest in Madrid, on four commuter trains packed with workers travelling from the suburbs to their workplaces. At lunchtime on 12 March, the death count had risen to 201 dead, and there were over 1,600 injured. The death count was expected to rise due to the large number of people who were critically or very seriously injured. The injuries were such that it has not yet been possible to establish the identity of some of the bodies. According to investigators, the attack was aimed at causing the highest possible number of casualties, and the bombs on all of the affected trains were alleged to have been intended to explode as the trains entered the old station, an important landmark in Madrid designed by the French architect Eiffel, blowing it up, and thus multiplying the number of casualties. No warning call was given before the blasts occurred. People from twelve different countries, including Spain, Chile, Cuba, Peru, Guinea Bissau, Honduras, Poland, France, Morocco, Colombia, Romania and Ecuador, were killed in the explosions. All the Spanish political parties expressed their condemnation of the attack and called for national unity and the setting aside of differences, suspending their campaigns for the general election that was held on Sunday. The government was quick to blame ETA for the attack, although as the hours passed, evidence surfaced linking Islamic groups to the attack. Jurgen Storbeck, the head of Europol, argued that the attack “doesn’t correspond to the modus operandi they have adopted up to now”.


The reconstruction of the dynamics of the attack by the Interior ministry indicated that fourteen bombs (four of which did not explode), containing between eight and twelve kg. of Goma 2 Echo dynamite had been placed on trains in rucksacks and plastic bags in Alcalá de Henares, in an operation whose planning involved between 12 and 30 people, and was executed by at least six terrorists. The trains were successive, with the first train that started in Guadalajara passing through the station at 7am, and the following ones starting their journey from Alcalá de Henares at 7, 7.10 and 7.15. Five and four bombs were placed on the first and second train respectively (one of which exploded in Atocha, before reaching the terminal building, and the next one was a short way behind, parallel to Calle Tellez), and three were placed on a third train that exploded in El Pozo (another one which did not explode was found later), and one more was placed on the last train that exploded in Santa Eugenia. Thirty-four people died in the first train, 64 died in the second, 67 in the third and 16 in the last train, while 20 others died subsequently in hospital. In El Pozo del Tío Raimundo, a working class neighbourhood that was symbolic of the struggle against Franco, where the explosion caused the highest number of casualties, the train exploded next to a platform crowded with people. A witness claimed that he saw three men with their faces covered, and possibly wearing headgear, acting suspiciously around a white Renault Kangoo van, and people were reportedly seen getting on and off trains before they left Alcalá de Henares station.

Civilian response

As news of the attacks spread, the population spontaneously offered their help to the victims, bringing them covers and helping in the rescue operation. Passengers jumped off other trains to offer immediate help in spite of the multiple explosions and devastation. Some people who survived the first explosion, died in subsequent explosions while they were rescuing others. The response to a call for citizens to donate blood was such, that a couple of hours after mobile blood collection units were se

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