11-M/Terrorism

I’m sure my title will bring a lot of interesting traffic to my blog, but I wanted to write about the news stories I’ve been reading lately about the three suspected terrorists arrested in Cádiz. I know that whenever I read about terrorism in Spain, I think about the March 11th, 2004 bombings of the Cercanías train in the Atocha station of Madrid. It is very similar in impact to the US’s 9-11, although the shorthand for the 2004 bombings is 11-M (once de marzo). There are songs in tribute to the victims, and Spain has a version of “truthers” who think that the bombings were an inside job (although all of the Spaniards I met that held that belief were nice sensible people . . . not at all like the American truthers that get on TV. Perhaps I need to meet a crazier set of Spaniards . . . or I need to watch less TV).

 

So, the Cádiz terrorists. The story caught my eye since I had lived there for the past year. Two of the three suspects were arrested in Ciudad Real while on a bus trip from Cádiz to Irún (Socibus Secorbus!!! I took that bus line!!!). The third was arrested in La Línea, where all three of them lived (well, technically, the two bus guys lived in San Roque). Many things about them are in dispute; for example, the suspects who took the bus were first reported to be Russians, then Chechnyans, and then simply, “from a former Soviet satellite”. The motive for their bus trip is unknown, although it is what prompted their arrest, as the government had been aware of their terrorist links and feared that they were going to Irún to cross the border into France. Even their suspected terrorist activities are a mystery, since police found only 100 grams of explosives, which the Minister of the Interior insisted could be enough to blow up a bus when mixed with shrapnel. Police also found materials during the search of the suspects’ homes that bomb-sniffing dogs indicated had once held explosives, but had been recently cleaned.

 

Although the suspects had military training – evidenced when one of the Russo-Chechnyan Soviets put up quite a fight during his arrest – and even documentation on flying drone planes, it’s unclear whether these men were actually members of Al Qaeda or another manifestation of the “lone wolf” that Europe has seen so much of lately, most tragically in the Brevik Norway shootings and the Toulouse anti-Semitic gunman. Of course, both possibilities are frightening, but I would actually feel more reassured if it turns out that these were unaffiliated terrorists. Trying to identify and stop members of a known violent group must be hard enough, but successfully stopping someone working alone gives me hope that tragedies like those in Norway and France can be avoided. However, the fact that these suspects seem to be working, if not alone, then at least without coordination from the main Al Qaeda network, means that it will be difficult to prove criminal intent, especially since the men were arrested before actually blowing anything up. It’s not that these men didn’t do anything illegal – there are pages and pages of very dense laws on the books having to do with the production and possession of explosives. But we’re wading into some interesting legal territory here, and I’m interested to see how it develops.

 

My news feed on the right has a few articles on the arrests. The first is from the Christian Science Monitor and summarizes the events in English. El Mundo gives some early news in the second article, but the third El País report is definitely the best, although it is in Spanish (sorry guys). The fourth article from ABC is a bit newer and discusses the search for explosives in the houses and businesses of the 3 suspects, and the fifth article isn’t about the Cádiz terrorists at all. Bringing this post full circle, article #5 brings us the news that the newest installment of the “Medal of Honor” first-person shooter will include . . . scenes intending to reference 11-M. Although they don’t come out and say, “This is Atocha and these are the 2004 bombings”, they reference Madrid, and that screenshot of the train station looks and awful lot like Atocha, doesn’t it? As the cut scene goes on, a group of men with vaguely Arab features blow up a train.

 

Most interesting to me is that the writer of article five is barely restraining his disdain for what he suggests is a sales tactic. And the first comment? “Come on, they say that this looks like 11-M, when they put Arab features on the one who set the bombs it’s just for show. They should put Iberian features on him, since the ones who did it were from here instead.” [Translation mine]

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