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Europe

Pain Still Raw as Spain Remembers Victims

In schools, workplaces and on the streets, Spain fell silent for five minutes on Friday in memory of the 191 people who died in Madrid a year ago in the worst terrorist attack in the country's history.

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Candles burn on a train platform in Madrid on Friday

The mood was solemn in the Spanish capital on Friday. Traffic stopped and people emerged from their cars and offices and stood together silently on street corners at midday.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero laid a white wreath at a park of remembrance in central Madrid where 192 olive and cypress trees mark a lasting tribute to the victims, and to a policeman who was killed in early April during a raid on a suspect's flat.

The day of mourning had begun at sunrise, when church bells tolled at 7:37 a.m. -- the exact moment of the blasts. At the railway stations struck by the bombers a year ago, thousands of commuters went about their daily routine, but they were joined by others who were there to remember, and to grieve.

Zwei trauernde Frauen in Madrid

Two women grive as they commemorate victims of the March 11 train bombings in Madrid, Friday, March 11, 2005, at the same time and same spot a train was blown up by Muslim extremists a year ago.

"We have come here because there are so many people who cannot," a woman said as she wept at El Pozo station while clinging tightly to the arm of her husband Enrique. He was among the 1,900 injured in attacks. He still bears the scars, his head bandaged from yet another operation carried out this week.

Juana Leal, who was widowed by the attacks, placed flowers and lit two candles on the platform of the station in the working class area, one of three that was struck by the bombers.

"I heard the explosion, I phoned his mobile phone and he no longer answered," Leal said, recalling the day her husband died.

"A sense of indignation"

Zapatero's government, which came to power three days after the blasts, had asked workplaces to fall silent and for employees to remember the attacks, blamed on Moroccan extremists linked to the al Qaeda network.

Bombenanschläge in Madrid Miniquiz März 2004

Debris lies next to a destroyed train car after a bomb, exploded in the Atocha railway station in Madrid Thursday March 11, 2004.

Many Spaniards believe the bombs were laid in retaliation for the previous government's support of the US-led war in Iraq. Just before midday a commuter at the packed Atocha station, near where bombs exploded on two trains, said he believed the country had become safer since Zapatero last year made good on an electoral promise to pull Spain's troops out of Iraq.

"I still feel a sense of indignation," Ricardo Oliva told AFP. "It was a surprise when it happened, I just did not think that terrorists could do this in my city ... since we withdrew our troops from Iraq, I think the Islamic threat has receded."

Earlier, as sunrise bathed the Madrid skyline in golden light, the capital's church bells rang out for five minutes. The slow, solemn gongs echoed along streets and were broadcast by all television and radio stations.

On public transport, many commuters sat bowed over newspapers bearing the message that Spain would never forget the victims of the attacks, which have become known everywhere in Spanish as "11-M" and which clearly still haunt the country a year later.

"Silence and pain"

11.03.2005 journal tt madrid

"The Open Wound" was how daily El Pais summed up the emotion in a caption alongside a photograph of a railway line glinting in the sun, while on the back page the daily listed the "191 lives broken."

"Silence and Pain," was financial daily Expansion's stark headline, while Cinco Dias opted for "The Memory of Pain." For some the poignancy of the moment was hard to bear. "The same train, the same day. It is not a good feeling," a middle-aged woman commuter told Spanish television reporters.

At midday, trains across Spain pulled into the nearest station for five minutes as flashing signs in stations explained the interruption to passengers.

A middle-aged man named Manuel said he believed it was time for Spaniards to move on.

"I am trying not to think about it too much, I think the best thing is to put it out of our minds," he said.

Amid the lasting emotional trauma, many of the relatives eschewed the official celebrations to mourn the loss of their loved ones in private.

Spain's Muslims thank Spaniards

Spain's Islamic Commission on Friday thanked their countrymen for the "exemplary" way in which they have made a distinction between Islam and terrorism after the March 11, 2004 attacks in Madrid.

"We feel deep and strong solidarity with the victims and their loved ones who have shown an exemplary attitude by never pointing a finger at the country's Muslim population but on the contrary, could tell the difference between terrorists and the Muslim people," the commission's secretary general, Riay Tatari, told private Spanish radio Cadena Ser.

Muslimin demonstriert in Spanien gegen den Terroranschlag in Atocha

A Muslim woman demonstrates against the Madrid terrorist attack in the Spanish capital.

Referring to the attack, he said: "It causes profound pain to all Muslims." Tatari, one of two secretary generals of the commission that was created by the government in 1991, said the country's Muslims wanted "to express their strongest thanks to all the Spanish people."

In the face of international terrorism, he said, "they knew how to make a clear distinction and see that the terror attacks against the Spanish people were born from the hate of a small minority which has nothing to do with the Muslim population," he added.

The commission called on Spain's imams to firmly condemn terrorism in their mosques on Friday and to pray for all the victims of the attacks.

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