13 March 2004

---Bin Laden Scores Again

"They have killed them [for] being Spaniards. I am also [a] Spaniard."

Translated, this is what the girl in the picture above is saying.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the morning rush hour, ten bombs exploded on packed commuter trains entering Madrid, killing nearly 200 people and injuring almost 1,500 in the worst guerrilla attack in Spain's history. Four other bombs that did not go off, including a type Goma 2-eco-dynamite (Spanish-made plastic explosives) reinforced with about one kg of screws and nails to multiply its effect, were found in an abandoned sports bag. The leftover bombs were in backpacks and were activated by mobile telephones that had had their alarms set for 7:39am on Thursday.

A 7-month old baby named Patricia, found wounded and alone on the platform of El Pozo railway station, became the 199th victim of the Madrid massacre yesterday. She died yesterday afternoon in the Children’s University Hospital of the Child Jesus in central Madrid. Later, as night approached, almost 2 million Spaniards in towns and cities across the country turned out in pouring rain to grieve for Patricia and her fellow victims, and to demonstrate their revulsion at the worst terrorist atrocity visited on Spain or mainland Europe.

"This attack was prepared so as not to fail," Spanish Interior Minister Angel Acebes said yesterday.

How was life going on in Madrid during that fateful Thursday?

Javier Marías , Spanish author, painted it quite vividly with an Op-Ed contribution he recently submitted to the NYT:

Spain has developed a customary response to these morning attacks. At noon, the local officials in every Spanish city stand outside the doors of their buildings, in heat, cold or rain, for a minute or two of silence. They're joined by anyone who wants to join them, whoever happens to be nearby. It makes a strong impression, this silence of mourning and condemnation, a collective hush maintained by people who interrupt their tasks or their errands to stand wordlessly in the middle of the street. Any curse or outcry against the murderers is usually quieted, because at those moments true condemnation consists of saying nothing. Unlike the terrorists, I get up late. From my balcony I can see the Ayuntamiento, or city hall, which stands at the heart of the capital. If I'm absorbed in writing, a sudden silence lets me know an attack has happened. Who could it have been? I wonder. Who was it this time? Some poor town councilman who was also a carpenter or the owner of a candy store? A journalist? A soldier? A policeman? A judge? A mother and her children who just happened to be going by when the bomb went off?

Oh yes. When I heard this depressing news over the wires early Friday, I had no doubts as to who the culprit was. For me, it had Osama Bin Laden written all over it. Since the World Trade Center bombing, I have observed that Bin Laden has acquired a particular style and trademark on how he prepares his main course. I have profiled him as:

• Having a flair not for killing a couple or a dozen people, but a horde of innocent day-to-day people.
• Timing the attacks at early mornings instead of afternoons or evenings.
• Using modes of transport (airplanes, ships, trains, in this case) as targets or accessories to the bombing.
• Fixated with the number 11 (NYC bombing – September 11, Bali bombing- October 11, and Madrid bombing – March 11).
• Targets key US cities, famous landmarks, and friend nations of the US

I am a bit worried about the last description. You see, during the US-led Iraqi war, the Philippines was one of the first (if not the first) to voice out support to Dubya Bush and one of the first members (if not the first) of the Coalition of the Willing. If you recall also, Bin Laden threw out his wholehearted support to Saddam Hussein during that tussle. At the time, I thought, “what is she (President Arroyo) doing?” She, of all people, should know how small, how vulnerable, and how defenseless, the Philippines is, in the face of a well-funded and devious terrorist organization like Al Qaeda. She was making the Filipino people jump from the frying pan into the fire. Bin Laden and his crew can easily take us out. Just like Saddam Hussein, who many dismiss now as a spent dog, Bin Laden keeps a list of who his enemies are.

It also makes me wonder if last month’s ferry disaster off the coast Corregidor was an accident or a terrorist attack. The government claims it was an engine trouble that caused the fire that gutted the ship and killed over a hundred passengers (see my March 2 post) many of whom are still missing. They stand pat with their assertion in spite of claims from witnesses that they heard successive explosions prior to the fire and in spite of the Abu Sayyaf’s pronunciations that it was they who were responsible. We all know that the Abu Sayyaf is supported by Osama Bin Laden.

Bin Laden and his gang are on the rampage again. They are doing what they do best. They terrorize and they terrify. They do not kill, they massacre. They make murdering a dozen people look tame and boring. They go for bloody carnage and maximum bloodshed.

The whole world may go on marches, vigils, and demonstrations to protest what Al Qaeda has done. The world may call him a coward and all sorts of bad-sounding names. But that won’t change a thing nor bring the dead back to life. He continues to smile and savor his victory deep within the caves of Afghanistan or wherever he hides right now. He is one slippery snake. He must be captured as soon as possible and made to answer for all his dastardly acts. He must be caged and contained immediately!

Javier Marías describes Spain’s Thursday event as “the bloodiest terrorist attack in Spain's history, and it took place only a couple of days before the general elections, the elections we never fail to vote in — at least those of us who lived under Gen. Francisco Franco and yearned to be able to vote at least once in our lives — however little we like the political parties currently on offer.”

Is it just me or do I detect some sort of dejavu here?

I worry for my country. Are we next?

(Picture above courtesy of El Pais, Spain's major daily)

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