World Reaction

London Attacks Spur Empathy, Alerts in Spain

By Jennifer Green
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, July 8, 2005

MADRID, July 7 -- The bombing attacks in London on Thursday brought widespread condemnation from other countries and statements of solidarity with the British people, while many governments raised terror alert levels and stepped up vigilance on transportation systems.

In Spain, where last year's terrorist attack on Madrid commuter trains was fresh in people's minds, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero placed the country on a maximum security alert.

"Above all, I want to express my most absolute condemnation -- the condemnation of the government and of the Spanish people -- for these brutal actions," Zapatero said at a news conference.

"Spain has suffered the blight of terrorism for decades and was victim on March 11 last year of the most horrific attack on record until then in Europe," he added. "Spaniards are very familiar with the suffering the British people are experiencing today. We are fully united in their pain, just as they, and so many other world communities, joined in ours on other occasions."

After meetings with cabinet members, Zapatero ordered an alert that mobilized police and the national Civil Guard as well as the nation's armed forces. The alert system was established after the March 11, 2004, attacks on commuter trains in Madrid, in which 191 people died and more than 1,800 were injured. Security was stepped up at strategic targets, including transportation, utilities, department stores and sports arenas.

"When these things happen, every victim of terrorism -- especially victims of bombs or explosions -- experiences renewed feelings," said Cristina Salado, a spokeswoman for the Association of March 11 Victims. "For those affected by March 11, the reaction was probably even stronger, considering it was so much more recent."

Salado, who was wounded in a 1985 Islamic terrorist attack in Spain that killed her husband, said she was horrified when she saw the news from London. "I felt and remembered what it is like to be in a situation like that. I thought about what the people trapped on the trains were feeling and what their families were feeling."

Throughout Europe, officials tightened security as they condemned terrorism.

Authorities in Berlin, Moscow and Paris increased security on their subway systems. Many governments also elevated terror alerts and asked transportation workers to be vigilant and look for suspicious objects.

Call centers in India, which handle many of Britain's National Rail telephone inquiries, said the number of calls doubled after the bombings. Officials said they brought in extra employees and asked some to work overtime.

European Union legislators called on members of the 25-nation organization to boost cooperation against terrorism and offered to help Britain coordinate its emergency response to the bombings. The bombers struck "at the very heart of Europe," said the E.U.'s justice and security commissioner, Franco Frattini.

Leaders of the Group of Eight countries meeting in Scotland called for unity and condemned the attacks.

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