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On March 11, 2004 thirteen terrorists attacked the Madrid commuter rail system, killing 191 people and wounding 1,741 just three days before Spanish elections. The ruling Popular Party led by Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar blamed the attack on ETA, the Basque separatist group responsible for more than 800 deaths since its founding in 1959. The police investigation quickly concluded that Islamic extremists had perpetrated the terror attack. This conclusion was cemented a day before the election when a video containing a claim of responsibility from al Qaeda was released to the press. The speaker on the videotape stated that the attack was in response to Spanish participation in the Iraq war, a decision that was overwhelmingly unpopular among Spanish voters who turned out the next day at the polls and voted Aznar's Popular Party out of office. The Spanish Socialist Workers Party won and its candidate for Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero immediately announced his intention to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq. Many analysts and observers concluded that al Qaeda was behind the attack and that it had been timed to coincide with the Spanish election with the intention of unseating the Popular Party and forcing Spanish troops out of Iraq. Although the terrorists clearly aimed to bring about a Spanish troops withdraw from Iraq, to date no evidence has surfaced to suggest that al Qaeda's leadership was in anyway involved in the attack or that it was purposely timed to influence Spain's election.
terrorism, al qaeda, abu dahdah, azizi, spanish terrorism
Date of Defense
March 30, 2006.
A Thesis submitted to the Department of International Affairs in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts.
Includes bibliographical references.
John Kelsay, Professor Directing Dissertation; Peter Garretson, Committee Member; Will Moore, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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