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Most Tragic Acts of Terrorism in History – 11 March 2004 Madrid Train Bombings: Spain

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Most Tragic Acts of Terrorism in History – 11 March 2004 Madrid Train Bombings: Spain

One of the most tragic terrorist attacks in Europe happened in Spain on March 11, 2004. The incident was a coordinated bombing of commuter trains in Madrid that killed 191 people and injured more than 1,750.

Al-Qaeda was responsible for the said attacked. The official investigation by the Spanish Judiciary determined the attacks were directed by an al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist cell although no direct al-Qaeda participation (only “inspiration”) has been established. Spanish nationals who sold the explosives to the terrorists were also arrested.

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South Africa ready for World Cup party

“Vuvuzela” trumpets blasted and soccer chants rang out across South Africa on the eve of the continent’s first World Cup which Africans hope will transform negative global perceptions of them.

Fans celebrate as they wait for the arrival of the South Africa’s national soccer team “Bafana Bafana” during a parade on the streets of Sandton in Johannesburg June 9, 2010.

In hotels and training grounds across the vast and beautiful nation, players and coaches of the 32 competing nations had their eyes set on an equally lofty goal – lifting the globe’s most coveted sporting prize on July 11.

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma unrealistically urged the local Bafana Bafana (The Boys) team to bring him the trophy. But the more likely benefit for the hosts is a legacy of tourism, investment and greater social unity.

South Africa go into Friday’s opener against Mexico brimming with confidence after a 12-match unbeaten run.

The majority of 90,000 people in Soccer City will be backing Bafana Bafana with a cacophony of vuvuzelas that have already become a symbol of South Africa 2010.

“This is big history, I can’t believe it,” local fan Alice Satege said, shaking with tears as she cheered a team parade.

Mexican fans laughing and singing under a statue of Nelson Mandela in sunny Johannesburg on Thursday said they had no qualms about spoiling the local party. Other pockets of fans chanted in multiple languages in Nelson Mandela Square.

Uruguay face France in the second match of the 64-game tournament’s opening day. Among foreigners pouring in, none can have taken a more epic journey than a Uruguayan family which has driven 100,000 km across 41 nations in a tiny car since early 2007 before reaching the World Cup by ship.

Spain, Brazil favorites

For lowly-ranked South Africa, just reaching the second round – and not becoming the first host nation of a World Cup to go out at the start – would probably be triumph enough.

Other African nations like Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana have much stronger sides, though the loss of Didier Drogba and Michael Essien respectively are blows to their chances.

Few expect an end to Europe and South America’s stranglehold on the World Cup, with Spain and Brazil everyone’s favorites.

Argentina have arguably one of the most gifted sides, though their chances could depend on the chemistry between maverick manager Diego Maradona and brilliant forward Lionel Messi.

Usual wild expectations associated with England’s team of Premier League players are tempered this time round after some unconvincing friendlies and injuries to key players. But if they win their Group C, they have a kind draw to the semifinals.

Away from speculation of what is to come on the pitch, Netherlands winger Eljero Elia sparked possibly the first major controversy of the tournament by appearing to insult Moroccans on a live streaming video.

“I want to apologize … I am not a racist,” he said.

Thieves strike again

Africans are praying the month-long tournament will counter what they see as old caricatures of hunger, AIDS and crime in world media that fails to grasp the continent’s modern face.

But robberies against foreign journalists have undercut that message for thousands of reporters covering the event, giving a reminder of crime as bad as almost anywhere outside a war-zone.

In the latest incident, Chinese journalists were robbed in their car, the embassy said on Thursday.

Another negative for the tournament is an extraordinary injury list full of big names.

The latest scare was over Switzerland captain Alex Frei, who is doubtful for their opener against Spain next week after hurting an ankle in training.

Health-permitting, former political prisoner and president, Nelson Mandela, 91, intends to make an appearance at Friday’s opening match, hoping to inspire the nation as he did for the Rugby World Cup in 1995 that South Africa won. The party was to officially start on Thursday night with a concert in South Africa’s biggest township, Soweto.

In the camp of little-fancied Slovakia, it was a family affair as coach Vladimir Weiss sought to avoid any accusations of favoritism towards his son and player of the same name. “I am very strict with him, much stricter with him than other players,” the coach said on the training pitch.

Iceland volcano ash causes fresh air travel chaos

Aviation chiefs predicted Thursday that the drifting dust could throw travel plans into disarray for a further two days, after flights were banned over more than 10 European countries.

Thousands of passengers from Hong Kong to Dublin were stranded when aviation chiefs decided it was too risky to allow planes to fly through the cloud of ash, which is upwards of 20,000 feet (6,000 metres) above the earth’s surface.

Although not visible from the ground, volcanic ash can be highly dangerous for aircraft, clogging up the engines and reducing visibility, experts say.

Up to 5,000 flights were affected by the flight bans Thursday, said Eurocontrol, the agency that coordinates flights in Europe.

Flights from all over the world, including Tokyo, Hong Kong, Dubai, Paris and Athens, were affected by the cancellations in northern Europe.

The ash from the volcano under Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull glacier blew southeast after Wednesday’s eruption towards Scotland and Norway, before covering England and Scandinavia, according to the London-based Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre.

The drifting cloud also closed airspace in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the north of France, parts of northern Germany and part of northern Poland.

Passengers’ travel nightmare was far from over Friday, with airspace closures still in force and the European air traffic control group Eurocontrol predicting further travel chaos.

The disruption “could last two days,” spokesman Kyla Evans told AFP from the agency’s Brussel’s headquarters.

Flights between North America and Europe also faced major disruption, with half of all services expected to be cancelled Friday, according to Eurocontrol.

Farmer tells of Iceland volcano blast There are an average of 600 flights between Europe and North America a day, it said.

Britain — which closed its airspace at 1100 GMT Thursday — said the ban would stay in force until 1800 GMT Friday for most flights in its airspace.

Belgian airspace is to remain closed Friday, authorities confirmed, while Air France said its flights in and out of Paris would not run.

In Scotland, health authorities warned people to beware of possible health problems from volcano ash falling to the ground.

Norway was the first to ground its flights on Wednesday evening, followed by Scotland overnight into Thursday and then London, before air traffic controllers announced no flights could go through British and Irish airspace.

Finland closed its northern airspace an hour later, followed by Denmark and Sweden.

Paris’s two main airports and more than a dozen others in the north of France were closed Thursday, aviation officials said.

A total of 466 flights between Spain and European destinations were cancelled Thursday because of the ash by 1530 GMT, Spain’s AENA aviation authority said.

Icelandic airports, however, reported no problems.

“The wind is blowing the ash to the east,” Hjordis Gudmundsdottir of the Icelandic Airport Authority told AFP, adding: “It’s amazing really.”

About 300 flights in and out of London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports had already been cancelled before the airspace was closed, leaving many of the 260,000 passengers who typically use the airports each day with nowhere to go.

“Basically we’re stranded here, and a lot of people are angry. I realise it’s an act of God — however it would be nice to have another exit strategy,” said Isobel Connolly, who was due to fly from Heathrow to Ireland.

In 1982, British Airways and Singapore Airways jumbo jets lost their engines when they flew into an ash cloud over Indonesia, while a KLM flight had a similar experience in 1989 over Alaska.

“On each occasion, the plane fell to within a few thousand feet of the ground before it was possible to restart the engines,” Rothery said.