Seven Years Ago Today: 11-M Terrorist Attacks in Madrid

Seven years ago today, a tragic terrorist attack occurred in Madrid, killing 191 people and injuring 1,841.  This was the most detrimental terrorist attack in Europe since 1988.  Four men arrived at the Alcalá de Henares Cercanias train station and took four trains to the Atocha station in central Madrid.  On their journey, 10 bombs were detonated in stations Santa Eugenia (killing 14), El Pozo (killing 65), and two trains in Atocha (train 1 killing 34 and train 2 killing 63).

At first, many assumed this was another attack by ETA; A Basque separatist terrorist group with the intention to create an independent state.  In the past ETA has used violent tactics, such as bombings, to intimidate society and the government in order to achieve their goals of creating an independent Basque state.  The attack occurred three days before elections, therefore many believed that it was ETA using intimidation to gain power.  After doing analysis and investigation, experts found it to be Islamic Jihadists satellite group of al-Qaeda.  Twenty-one suspects were charged with responsibility in the attacks and there were 7 key suspects, most of them were involved in the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (an ally of al-Qaeda).  Al-Qaeda’s European military spokesman said that these attacks were revenge on Spain for collaborating with United States President George Bush and his allies.

Terrorism could be considered one of the most significant transnational security threats of the 21st century.  It is vague concept that has a very complex and ambiguous definition.  One definition of terrorism is premeditated violence with political objectives carried out by a sub-national group that wants to place fear in a society for political ends.  Al-Qaeda is an example of a terrorist group that often works with its allies (for example Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group in the 11 M attacks) to achieve their goals of repressing those who don’t support their views and impose dangers on the rest of the world with little intention of cooperating or coming to any sort of agreement with its enemies.  Globalization and the advancement in technology have made terrorism a more complex issue.  It is much easier for terrorists to achieve their goals because their ability to cross borders easily with transportation and to communicate with their allies in all parts of the world.   This has made it very difficult for experts to monitor terrorism and prevent attacks from occurring.

Unfortunately terrorist attacks can happen anywhere.  As an American from Washington, DC, I have experienced the effects of terrorism first-hand, and I sympathize with the Spaniards today.  I vividly remember the 9/11 attacks like it was yesterday.  At that moment, although I was 12 years old, I knew I wanted to study counter-terrorism.  I never wanted, nor wanted anyone else, to experience a day like that again.  The effects of terrorism are horrifying and leave an eternal mark on the society it attacks.  It is important to find ways to prevent terrorism and it is especially important to remember and honor the victims that died in the 11-M attacks, seven years ago today.

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