Madrid Train Bombings

Reporting of the March 11, 2004 train bombings in Madrid was relatively consistent across Western media. The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the Guardian all emphasized that Spanish authorities were initially implicating the ETA Basque separatist group, but had found a stolen van with detonators and an audio tape with Quranic verses inside that suggested a possible link to Islamic extremists.

However, the New York Times seemed to place more importance on potential al-Qaeda linkages than the other papers did. The paper reported on the 2003 indictment of Syrian businessman Muhammad Galeb Kalaje Zouaydi, who was accused of “distributing $800,000 for the Qaeda network under the cover of a Spanish real-estate development company.”Tim Golden and Don Van Natta Jr., “BOMBINGS IN MADRID: THE SUSPECTS; Carnage Yields Conflicting Clues as Officials Search for Culprits,” New York Times, March 12, 2004, http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/12/world/bombings-madrid-suspects-carnage-yields-conflicting-clues-officials-search-for.html. Moreover, the paper noted that “Spain has continued to serve as an important recruiting, financial and logistical hub for Al Qaeda. Many of the dozens of Islamic terrorism suspects arrested in Spain since the Sept. 11 attacks are believed to be mid-level logistical planners and operatives who have helped move money, either through charities or legitimate businesses…”Tim Golden and Don Van Natta Jr., “BOMBINGS IN MADRID: THE SUSPECTS; Carnage Yields Conflicting Clues as Officials Search for Culprits,” New York Times, March 12, 2004, http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/12/world/bombings-madrid-suspects-carnage-yields-conflicting-clues-officials-search-for.html.

Meanwhile, the Guardian pointed out discrepancies with the attacks and the typical behavior of ETA—a Marxist, separatist group. The chief of Europol, the EU police agency, said that, “It could have been Eta…But we’re dealing with an attack that doesn’t correspond to the modus operandi they have adopted up to now.” The same article also quoted the ETA’s founder, Julen de Madariaga, who simply said that bombing working-class areas was “not Eta’s method of working.”Giles Tremlett, “Massacre in Madrid,” Guardian (London), March 11, 2004, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/mar/12/alqaida.spain1.

For its part, the Wall Street Journal seemingly downplayed the al-Qaeda connection in its reporting in favor of the ETA-theory, quoting Spain’s then-Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar saying, “[The ETA] tried to blow up trains in Madrid three times now in the past months…And al Qaeda is going to try the fourth time? And succeed three days before the elections?”Carlta Vitzthum, Keith Johnson, and Marc Champion, “Train Bombings Kill At Least 198 in Spain,” Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2004, http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB107899319607552435. Aznar also claimed that bomb-laden backpacks were “typical of the ETA…There’s still the case of the cassette in Arabic, but that’s the only piece of evidence in favor of al Qaeda.”Carlta Vitzthum, Keith Johnson, and Marc Champion, “Train Bombings Kill At Least 198 in Spain,” Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2004, http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB107899319607552435.

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On September 17, 2019, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle detonated outside a Presidential rally in Charikar, Afghanistan, killing at least 26 people and injuring another 30. Later, a suicide bomber detonated outside the Ministry of Defense in Kabul, killing 22 and wounding 38 others. The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks. 

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