By Mario Andrade
Spanish Newspaper Source: La Rioja
The security forces were convinced that the ETA terrorists were going to return to Madrid, in spite of their previous attempt to smuggle explosives into the capitol. Just two weeks ago, the police in Spain reported they had foiled a big attack by the Basque separatist guerrillas, ETA. Police arrested two suspected members of ETA as they drove towards the capital, Madrid, in a pick up truck carrying eleven hundred pounds of explosives.
Today, more than 190 people were killed and some 1,247 injured in a series of bomb blasts, which ripped through three Madrid railway stations.
Two days before what has been called 'the worst attack in Western Europe since World War II,' the riot police in Madrid began setting up checkpoints in order to find cars with explosives. They began patrolling commercial areas, train stations, airports, stadiums, large crowds and government buildings. The officers were also in charge of patrolling the so-called 'hot neighborhoods,' in Madrid, where ETA terrorists have known to hide.
The police presence had become visible since last Monday, when an 'immediate response security team' was deployed. The immediate response team also conducted night air surveillance, using helicopters equipped with night vision cameras.
Last January, Spain witnessed a scandal that involved a meeting between Spanish government officials and Basque ETA terrorists. Among the government officials who met with the alleged terrorists was Josep-Lluis Carod-Rovira, a Republican Left party leader. Almost immediately after the meeting was reported, the opposition political parties asked why Spanish intelligence officers, who apparently knew about the alleged meeting and reported it to the government, did not arrest the ETA leaders.
Nevertheless, Jose Maria Aznar denied any possible wrongdoing by his government and said the only blame was with Josep-Lluis Carod-Rovira, who attended the meeting in January with top ETA operatives.