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Spain commemorates Madrid train bombings

(The Associated Press circulated the following on March 11, 2009.)

MADRID, Spain ó The families of victims of the Madrid train bombings laid flowers Wednesday to mark the fifth anniversary of Europe's worst Islamic terror attack, which killed 191 people and injured 1,800.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero led a minute's silence in parliament while relatives placed wreaths at three railway stations where four early morning commuter trains were attacked in 2004.

"Five years on, every day gets harder, although we live apparently normal lives," said Javier Gilmero, who was on a train that was attacked near the bustling Atocha station.

Gilmero turned out Wednesday with family and friends to lay flowers in memory of victims as he does every year. To this day, Gilmero says he has cannot get on a train again.

"When the anniversary comes around, we have a really hard time," said Gilmero, who is in his early 50s. "After five years reflecting and thinking, I realize I am very lucky to be here."

Twenty-eight people, mainly from North Africa, went on trial in 2007 and 21 of them were convicted of taking part in the bombings.

The attacks with 10 bombs hidden in backpacks were claimed by Muslim militants who said they were avenging the presence of Spanish peacekeepers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of those 21, 15 remain in prison.

Following the minute's silence in parliament, Zapatero expressed the government's support for the victims and their families.

Zapatero's Socialist party won a general election three days after the attacks, ousting a conservative government that had supported the U.S.-led Iraq invasion.

The conservative government had sent peacekeepers to Iraq after major fighting stopped in 2003 and initially tried to blame the Madrid bombings on Basque separatist militants.

The anniversary Wednesday was the first in which the government has not staged any official ceremony for the victims.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

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