Sample Essay on Madrid Train Bombings in 2004

Background to the security problem

The Madrid Train Bombing was considered a coordinated and politically instigated simultaneous attack, which targeted the commuter trains in Madrid. The Morning of 11th March 2004 was marked with agony as people saw their loved friends and families fall into the trap of terrorist attack (Armitage 2007). At around 7.30 am and extending for several minutes, 10 bombs exploded simultaneous on four commuter trains in the city centre at Atocha Station. The incident left over 190 people dead with more than 1,500 individuals seriously injured. The attack occurred just a few days before the country’s general election resulting to severe political consequences; an attack that was believed to have been operated by the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) (Baird 2009).

 According to Bowcott  and Tremlett (2004), ETA is a Basque Separatist Organization that had exited in the country for several years and within the 30 years of its active involvement in politics, the organization was known to conduct campaigns of violence, which at one point had seen close to 800 people lose their lives.

Following the attack, Spain experienced outpouring grief and defiance as close to 11 million Spaniards (2.3 million in Madrid alone) conducted demonstrations across the country against the violence the was being propagated by the ETA and also in support of the victims’ urge for compensation (Fuchs 2004). The unity that was seen during the demonstration finally ended as the investigation continually linked the attack to the Islamist Militant group known as the al-Qaeda. Even with the first arrest on March 13th 2004, Spanish government continued to blame ETA for the attack since they were considered the main threat to the country’s security system (Hamilos 2007). This meant that the attack could not have occurred if the country had put in place security measures after realizing that Basque Separatist Organization had plans to cause violence, especially now that the country was approaching its general election.

Resilience/security issues raised by the incident

            The incident indicated clearly that Spain was the main target of the terrorist groups and 11th March 2014 was the set date to execute the deadly outrages with the country’s transit system becoming the possible target (Siegel 2012). The attack was linked to failures in the country’s security system and inability to control the renowned violent groups like the ETA. For example, on September 2003, the National medial released information concerning plotted terrorist attack on the county’s busy transit system. After the media report, the country’s interior minister announced a meeting with the National Counter-Terrorism Committee to review the security measures in the country (Siegel 2012). It was however noted that the individuals who were involved in decision-making had not released any report on the decision against the plotted attack.

The latest report revealed that the Spanish security team could to marginalize its transit system in order to upgrade security because any attempt to marginalize the transport system would have had negative effects on the work practices, or would have contravened the country’s position in the fight for individuals’ rights. It was also not possible to convict the members of the ETA on the basis of mare allegations since any attempt would have contravened human right provisions.

The argument raised over the role of government towards ensuring protection of its citizen is rightfully placed, because it is the responsibility of the any government to provide security to its voters and ensure that the most targeted areas are properly secured. However, at times it becomes very hard for the government to provide maximum security since most terrorists mutate and operate just like other citizens (Tremlett, Bowcott, Black & Arie 2004). Since it is hard to differentiate terror groups from other members of the community, particular when the population is consists of different ethnic groups, the government felt that it is the responsibility of citizens to report to the security team incidences that would jeopardize the country’s security.

Another issue raised by the public was that most transport companies were employing the services of security sub-contractors with unknown backgrounds. This opened the country’s transit system to threat of terror or to persons with bad intentions (Tremlett, Bowcott, Black & Arie 2004). As stated by the National Executive Council the country lacked overall security arrangement, and even after reports were released concerning terror attack, the government gave very little attention to land transport compared to other transport networks like airline and maritime.       

Solutions, failures and lessons learned

            From the discussions above, the 2004 terror Madrid train attack was because of security neglects. The security team seemed to have paid less attention to land transport, but instead focussed on less targeted areas (Jones 2010). The failure to incorporate transit system among the secured areas is the main factor that contributed to the terror attack. The most prominent solution to the observed incidence is for the government to consider all its sectors vulnerable, and therefore the need to ensure maximum security (Lichfield 2012). Proper preparation on the side of the government, especially when the country is facing terror warning is necessary. This would mean setting up an investigation team to identify those behind the terror plot, regrouping the security team for maximum protection of the most sensitive institutions and sectors (McCleskey etal, 2007). The most important lesson learned from this incident is that the security system, if flawed, can lead to severe consequences and the political dimension can shift any time as long as the citizens feel that their interests are not being served. The decision to provide higher security levels is the sole responsibility of the government, but at times require the proper engagement on the side of the public (Sciolino 2004). The government as the service provider and citizens have a role to play when it comes to issues of security.      

Conclusions and recommendations

            Terrorism is an international problem experienced in most countries, there has to be cooperation in fighting the menace. This insinuates that terrorism has evolved to a modern sophisticated act that requires the cooperation of different security apparatus through sharing of information (Schrijver and Larissa 2010). This can be done by employing more front-line staff and training staff members on counter-terrorism issues. The training will allow staff members to ensure community safety in future, and where there will be low response on the side of the security team, the trained staff will be in a position to assume the role.

            To ensure security in the transport sector there has to be a wide approach of putting more efforts on areas that may be vulnerable (Robinson etal 2005). This can take the direction of involving all the stakeholders in transport while making security arrangements such as coordinated anticipations, training awareness, increased staffing as well as improving the country’s infrastructure, upgrading and extending CCTV at major railway stations and on trains (Golden & Johnston 2004). All these activities can he improve the level of security within the country’s transport systems so that the incidence that took place in 2004 cannot be experienced in future.


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