Shockwaves from Spain were felt by professors and students at UTD after the tragedy two weeks ago.
Three days before Spanish elections, 10 bombs exploded on Madrid’s commuter train system killing more than 200 civilians.
Spanish authorities initially blamed the March 11 bombings on the Basque separatist group ETA, but allegations of responsibility quickly fell on Islamic militants or Al Qaeda, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Lloyd Dumas, professor and terrorism expert at UTD, said he didn’t think ETA was responsible for the attacks.
“It’s not usually what they do,” Dumas said. “It would have been counter-productive. In the past, (ETA) has gone out to get officials, not innocent civilians riding on a train.”
Dumas added that the former Spanish government was the only group he knew claiming ETA was responsible – possibly, he suspects, to maintain support for the elections. “There was a stronger turnout because of this,” Dumas said. “It got a lot of people out of their houses and mad at the government that they failed to stop this attack.”
But also, Dumas said he would not be surprised if Al Qaeda organized the bombings.
“This was used to frighten or convince other countries they won’t get a free ride if they support what’s going on in Iraq,” Dumas said.
He said he thought attacks were just as likely in the U.S., Britain or Poland.
But that’s not reassuring to Edgar Munoz, a former visiting scientist to UTD.
“The whole nation is devastated,” Munoz said, who lives in Zaragoza, Spain, 200 miles northeast of Madrid. “All mankind is affected by terrorist attacks, no matter where they take place. We all were traveling in those trains.”
Munoz, who has family and friends in Madrid, said news following the events was confusing and the atmosphere is still tense.
“Spaniards reacted very well by massively participating in demonstrations against terrorism and supporting terrorism victims, and also voting,” Munoz said. “In democracy, you can help things change by participating in the elections.”
But he fears the unpredictable future attacks if Al Qaeda was responsible.
“If this attack is connected to Spain’s role in the Operation Iraqi Freedom, I wonder if removing our troops from Iraq would avoid more terrorist attacks,” Munoz said. “However, it is also true that you can’t rely on terrorists and their paranoias.”
Sophomore government and politics major Sophie Rutenbar was in Paris when the bombings occurred.
“It was a little unnerving…because two days after the bombings, we
were forced to evacuate the Metro at one point,” Rutenbar said. “We were wondering if there was a bomb threat.”
Rutenbar reflected on the impact the bombings may have had on the Europeans around her that day.
“I think it affected them in the same way 9/11 affected us, though maybe not to the same extent,” Rutenbar said. “At some point you can’t believe someone would try to hurt you like that.”