Thursday, March 10, 2005

IT HAS TAKEN ONE YEAR, but it's started to dawn on many Spaniards:
In the year since 10 dynamite-filled backpacks exploded on Madrid commuter trains, Spaniards have shifted some blame away from the Iraq war and onto themselves.

Immediately after the March 11 massacre, most Spaniards saw the attack as al-Qaida's revenge for sending Spanish troops to Iraq. Today there's a realization al-Qaida's footprint in Spain is much older and deeper: the country had long been a haven or transit point for Islamic militants.

The government's counterterrorism chief, Fernando Reinares, said he believes a few hundred Muslims indoctrinated in radical Islam remain in Spain and at risk of being recruited for terrorism. Madrid bombers had plotted to follow up the massacre with suicide bombings, suggesting their goal went beyond punishing the pro-U.S. government then in power, he said.

Since the train attack, authorities have uncovered other plots in Spain, including one to destroy a courthouse that's the hub of investigations into Islamic terrorism cases.

"Spain is safer now, but the threat level has not gone down for Spain or the European Union in general," Reinares told The Associated Press.

Officials now believe the main motive for the train bombings that killed 191 people was not so much Iraq as Spain's arrest of dozens of al-Qaida suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, including three charged with helping prepare them, Reinares said.
I mentioned Reinares in a previous post; by the way, he's not exactly Spain's anti-terror chief (as the international media usually describe him) but an adviser on terrorism to Spain's interior minister.