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The Madrid train massacre

From: J
Category: Other stuff
Date: 18 May 2004


THE Madrid train massacre which killed 200 people and injured 1,400 was a significant triumph for al-Qaida. Not only did they mount a terrorist spectacular, but they also managed to transform an election.

Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's centre-right party was ousted, which in turn led the socialist, Zapatero, to take his place. Aznar paid a heavy price in giving his full support to President Bush and Prime Minister Blair in the war against Iraq.

Al-Qaida has achieved its objective by driving a wedge between the alliance in the war on terrorism. Meanwhile, Zapatero is planning to withdraw Spain's 1,300 troops from Iraq.

The real question on people's minds is whether an attack could happen in the UK. Al-Qaida has been trying to attack European cities for the past decade. In 1994, an attempt was made by an Algerian cell to hijack an Air France plane and smash it into the Eiffel Tower.

In 2000, al-Qaida planned to attack Germany by bombing tourists at a Frankfurt Christmas market. And, it would seem, the British intelligence services have recently averted a major terrorist attack against the UK.

Officers have been involved in the largest anti-terror operation the UK has seen in years. Half a ton of ammonium nitrate fertiliser was seized from a storage unit in Hanwell, West London. So far, eight men have been arrested and I expect more will follow. The work of M15, M16 and Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism unit may have prevented tragedy.

Al-Qaida has many targets to choose from in the UK. There are more than 2,500 train stations, used by 5m people every day. The Eurostar service from Waterloo is the only station with metal detectors and baggage scanners. Then there are public buildings such as Parliament, Canary Wharf and the US Embassy. Al-Qaida may choose to launch its attacks against multiple targets across the UK, as it did during the 9/11 attacks.

One point is very clear - al-Qaida needs to be lucky only once.

Al-Qaida in many ways functions like a multi-national company, constantly adapting to technological changes. It has taken advantage of the effects of glob-alisation, operating across sixty different countries. In many ways, getting rid of the chief executive, Osama bin Laden, would be pointless.

Western leaders should not attempt to wage war on terrorism, they should address the real concern of what causes the hatred in the first place.

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