ETA or Al Quaeda?

Who was it that bombed Madrid? I suppose this could be a bit of a news thread as well, as we will see as the news progresses. I would say that this is the most important terrorist attack since 9/11, though.

One vote for al quaeda here, because of the scope of the attack.

Its an interesting case, IMO

Firstly, why would Al Queda attack Spain? I think that England would be a much more apprpriate target in their (admitedly faulty) logic. Although America is pretty well-guarded against terrorist attacks to some extent, what’s to stop a sleeper-cell terrorsit from waltzing into a highly-populated area of America and detonating a backpack-bomb? I think that if AQ wanted to attack America they still could.

OTOH, ETA wouldn’t do such a large-scale attack. ETA attacks are never usually so guesome and are almost always poltically motivated. From this point of view, the nature of the attack (random innocent targets designed for maximum destruction of life and fear) does seem very AQ-like.

But Spain? I just don’t understand. How is provoking Spain going to do anything?

Its less provocational than it is retributional. Spain, along with the UK, have been Europe’s staunchest supporters of the US’s war on terror (including toppling Saddam).

On a more symbolic note, something which is not lost on Al-Quaida, Spain was pretty much responsible for stopping the spread of Islam in the 15[sup]th[/sup] century.

Not trying to be argumentative here at all, but is it really true? Do the AQ types really care about the reconquista? Although I do know that there is almost no Arabic population in Spain in comparison to the rest of Europe.

**Merkwurdigliebe Its an interesting case, IMO

Firstly, why would Al Queda attack Spain? I think that England would be a much more apprpriate target in their (admitedly faulty) logic. Although America is pretty well-guarded against terrorist attacks to some extent, what’s to stop a sleeper-cell terrorsit from waltzing into a highly-populated area of America and detonating a backpack-bomb? I think that if AQ wanted to attack America they still could.**

Spain has supported the current war in Iraq with troops and ETA has connections with Islamic terrorists.

There is nothing to stop a sleeper-cell attack in America except the CIA, FBI, and NSA. They only need to be funded, supported and legislated to allow for cooperation between them.

I don’t think terrorism is taken seriously until it hits closer to home. IMO, 9/11 was the average US citizen’s first exposure to a problem that has festered for many years.

We may not be able to stop all acts of terrorism but we sure as hell can try.

I’d bet on al Qaeda, whose fascination with multiple, coordinated attacks sets it apart from pretty much every other terrorist organization in the world.

As for the question of why Spain, the presence of al Qaeda members there has been well documented. Don’t forget that 9-11 rigleader Mohammed Atta traveled to Spain to meet with with radical Islamists (apparently including one who was already jailed) in the summer of 2001.

Al Qaeda vote here, although a fringe, ultra-nuts splinter cell of ETA could have done it too. But since there are a couple clues of AQ (the tape and detonators found nearby and the letter), and the scale and MO of the attack are completely out of league for ETA, the most sensible presumtion is that AQ did it.

First, please don’t spell al-Qaida with a “u”. Even though this is a question of transliteration, the “u” sound is very far away from the sound of the Arabic (sounds more like al-Kah-id-ah)

A bit more info into this debate - Reuters report.

Possible evidence for al-Qaida or similar group’s involvement:

  • Claim that detonators and tape containing Qu’ranic verses found together in abandoned van.
  • a letter purporting to come from al-Qaida.

Spain still seems like an odd target for an Islamist extremist group though, despite Spanish support for the Iraq invasion and its status centuries ago as the Muslim-controlled area of al-Andalus. It isn’t as high-profile a target as the US or Britain.

Also, the Spanish general election is coming soon, and ETA is a huge issue. My guess would be ETA, even though the attack is so large.

Yeah, great strategy right there: “We kill a whole lot of your fellow citizens so you´ll support our cause in the election” :rolleyes:

Really, can you think of any advantage for ETA to do this? appart from keeping Spain in a state of terror?. Not that they haven´t been doing that for three decades, but they kept an agenda attached to that, which needed supporters for their cause, and this would simply blow whatever support they may still have.
I´m not condoning anything here, but one thing is killing a goverment official that was against ETA, or planting a bomb and then calling to warn about it´s location and time of explosion; and something very different is blowing up train carriages full of innocent people.
ETA, as execrable as it is, has not made a point of killing people for shit and giggles.

I’d say it certainly doesn’t hurt. Al-Qaida likes to put forward an ‘overall message’ to go along with the practical realities. Trying to rally the unwashed masses… :wink:

IOW, hitting the WTC with airliners was not only a reasonably easy way to kill thousands of people, it was a symbolic strike against the ‘skyscraper’, a symbol of the West.

But I do think its mostly a secondary consideration (Spain’s cooperation with the US being the first).

This doesn’t seem like ETA, it has all the earmarks of Al-Qaida:
[ul][li]Very large - 13 bombs (3 failed to detonate)[/li][li]Well coordinated - all went off within 15 mins[/li][li]Cowardly targeting totally innocent civilians - a train during rush hour[/li][/ul]

Oh yeah,

I wish the “smack” smiley still worked. I was thinking in Spanish because I always thought it was funny how al qaeda meant “the base” and the spanish verb quedar means “to stay.” so I guess I got them mixed together. When I wrote a u i there it was only because I wrote the q there first.

While I’m not going to claim ETA is on the side of the angels, this seems a bit too extreme for them to build support for their adgenda. They want the man in the street tired of them, and willing to let them go their own way, not furious and terrified. The MO, and the Spanish officials seem to agree, for ETA, is to call in the bomb 15-20 minutes before the blast, let the bomb go off, and allow the fear, and sound effects to do their work on the population.

I believe that for a Spanish law enforcement type, it’s something of a knee-jerk to associate ETA with bombs. Just like the IRA is the first suspect in the UK. It just doesn’t fit with what I’ve read of ETA’s methods.

Frankly, since Al-Qaida has been going after targets in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, I suspect Spain was chosen less to make a point, than for accessibility. It’s certainly the first attack outside of the the Islamic world since 9/11.

This doesn’t strike me as ETA’s kind of operation. IIRC, they have tended to go after more political or governmental targets.

If this was al-Qaida, and this actually was intended as retribution for support of the Iraq invasion, it was remarkably ham-fisted even by their standards. While the Spanish government did indeed provide material support for the invasion of Iraq, Spain was the site of some of the largest protests against the war with more than a million people reported out in the streets of Barcelona alone on 15 Feb. 2003. I recall, but cannot currently find, reports of polls that stated as much as 90% of the Spanish population was against the war. Thus it seems a strange way to reward their concern.

Assuming al-Qaida responsibility, it seems more clear than ever (at least in my mind) that they have little in the way of a coherent strategy or goal except maximum bloodshed.

ETA (generally) provides warnings; their attacks are patterned similarly to IRA attacks, with relatively minimal loss of life compared to the amount of collateral damage.

Also, this coordinated multipoint attack smacks of Al-Qaeda’s work on 9/11 and in Kenya.

Plus, they’ve taken responsibility, which is generally a good indicator.

My thoughts go to the families of the victims.

I vote al-Qaida. As for the reason, Spain has been specifically threatened by al-Qaida before. Spain, Australia, England, and Japan have been specifically named as targets for their support of the invasion of Iraq.

Part of the strategy of Bin Laden has been to try and split apart allies in the west. It’s just that he doesn’t seem to know how to do that. Bombing Spain won’t shake the alliance or push countries apart. One thing about Democracies is that when you threaten the people, they tend to show a surprising amount of resolve.

If there were a terrorist bombing in France, it would immediately pull the U.S. and France closer together. I’m not sure Bin Laden and his cronies really understand that.

One more thing to ponder: in the early '90’s, there was a wave of terrorist attacks in France attributed to the Algerian GIA (Armed Islamic Group). One involved the December 1994 hijacking of an Air France jet, which was foiled when the plane was stormed by French commandos while on the ground in Marseille. The intention of the hijackers apparently was to crash the plane into central Paris, and this was widely assumed to have been the model for the September 11 attacks.

The GIA, however, is suspected of having masterminded at least one other major operation in France, starting in December 1996 and involving anti-personnel bombs aboard Paris commuter trains, and later, in public markets. The first of several occurred when a large bomb concealed in a piece of luggage exploded on a train of the regional express line B (RER ‘B’) at the Port Royal station in Paris, killing 12 and wounding many others. Although larger in scale, the Madrid bombings appear to share some features and methodology with the '96-'97 outrages.

Note that I am not saying the GIA had anything to do with yesterday’s event, just that al-Qaida has worked from their playbook in the past and may have done so again.

I think the rationale would be more to point up the fact that Batasuna have been banned and are not able to participate in the elections. It would remind the Spanish what happens when you deny people a voice in the democratic process, and what alternative they’re left with.

That said, I’m leaning towards Al Qaeda because of the sheer scale of it - but I’m not ruling ETA out yet.

I don’t rule them out, either. I understand why the Spanish officials have reacted the way they have, but I don’t agree with them.

Al Qaeda vote here, for reasons already put forth in this thread.

ETA has a pretty complete record of claiming responsibility (often inadvance) of their own handiwork. And we’ve seen no claims from them this time.

Spain might also be perceived as a softer target than the UK, as Turkey was in the recent bombings.

I’m wondering if this will strengthen or weaken support for the headscarf law in France.