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Spain remembers Madrid bomb dead

By CNN Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman


Madrid (Spain)
Acts of terror

MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- Two schoolchildren laid a wreath Saturday in a Madrid park while victims of the Madrid train bombings looked on in a silent ceremony as the nation marked the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed 191 people and wounded 1,741 others.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Madrid's mayor were also present at the wreath-laying ceremony in the Retiro Park's "Forest of Remembrance," where one tree was planted last year for each of those killed in the March 11, 2004 attack.

But the ceremony, the central memorial of the nation's observance Saturday, was more subdued than last year's commemoration, at the same park, when King Juan Carlos, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and the King of Morocco were on hand.

At the locations where the four rush-hour morning commuter trains were bombed two years ago, a relative few flowers were visible on Saturday, in contrast to the past years when there were massive makeshift shrines of flowers and candles.

The government and victims' groups said they were not forgetting the terror, but trying to strike a balance of remembering while also moving ahead.

The judge in charge of the train bombing investigation is expected to deliver indictments no later than April 10, court sources said.

A total of 116 people have been charged in the two-year investigation, many of them Moroccans, and 24 remain in jail in Spain, while another suspect is in jail in Italy.

Court sources have said perhaps 30 to 40 suspects, out of the total 116, might be indicted. A trial would follow months later.

Authorities blame the coordinated bombings on March 11, 2004, on Islamic terrorists.

Although authorities say many of the details about the attacks are known -- such as where the explosives were stolen and where the bombs were assembled -- the indictments are expected to reveal more information, including possibly identifying the suspected mastermind behind the attacks.

Seven key suspects in the case are dead. They blew themselves up on April 3, 2004, three weeks after the train bombings, as police closed in on their hideout in the Madrid southern suburb of Leganes.

A police special operations officer was killed in that blast, which tore a gaping hole in the apartment building, and 18 other police officers were wounded.

Two years on, political wrangling continues over the attacks, and over Spain's anti-terrorism policy, with some Spanish opposition politicians and media questioning the judge's investigation.

The police issued a statement this week flatly denying claims published in El Mundo newspaper about alleged evidence tampering and alleged testimony linking a key Moroccan suspect to the outlawed Basque ETA separatist group.

Al Qaeda threats

The conservative government was voted out of office in elections three days after the bombings, and the Socialists, under Zapatero, won an upset victory.

The conservatives, then in power, and on many occasions since, have suggested that Basque ETA, listed as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union, somehow must have had a role in the attacks.

But in court documents released so far in the investigation, the judge has found no link between the Islamic terror suspects and ETA, despite what has been described as an exhaustive investigation into potential leads.

The former conservative government had sent Spanish troops to Iraq in 2003, in support of the Bush administration, despite overwhelming Spanish opposition as measured by opinion polls and massive street demonstrations. And Spain then was mentioned in threats in statements from al Qaeda leaders.

The Socialist government withdrew the troops soon after taking power in 2004, although Spain remains under threat from Islamic terrorists, officials say.

Police say they have broken up 18 Islamic terror cells in Spain since the Socialists were elected, including an alleged plot to send a truck bomb against the National Court in Madrid, which is investigating the train bombing case.

To mark the second anniversary of the attacks, a memorial concert was held Friday night at Madrid's main concert hall, with the London Philharmonic performing. King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia attended the event, to commemorate the London train bombings last July, as well as those in Madrid.

On Saturday, most of the victims and their relatives stayed out of sight. The leader of the main victims association, Pilar Manjon, attended the ceremony at the Forest of Remembrance, but she told CNN it was not as leader of the victims, but on her own, as a mother who son was killed on one of the trains bombed.

Authorities say many of the 1,741 wounded still have hearing problems from the blasts, including loss of hearing or hearing unusual sounds, and some have undergone multiple operations, and are not yet back at work.

In addition to the Spaniards killed, there were people from more than a dozen other nations, especially Latin American or Eastern European immigrants in Spain seeking a better life economically.

The government has granted more than 900 residency cards to immigrants who were victims or their family members, the Interior Ministry said.

In all the government has paid more than $70 million in indemnities and aid to the relatives of the deceased and to those with temporary or permanent disabilities.

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