MADRID and Spain as a whole marks the 12th anniversary of the Atocha station bombing which claimed the lives of 191 commuters, leaving hundreds more injured – some for life.
The blast, which went off just as the train was pulling into the station, was found to be the work of Middle Eastern terrorist faction Al-Qaeda, although initial claims by the then president, José María Aznar (PP), cost him the general elections in May.
Political leaders of all colours came together and greeted each other in a friendly manner, brought together by their memories of the tragedy and their empathy for the victims – the picture shows acting Spanish right-wing president Mariano Rajoy (PP) kissing his political polar opposite, left-wing Podemos-Ahora Madrid city mayoress Manuela Carmena, in the company of the more centre-right PP regional president Cristina Cifuentes.
The four different Associations of Victims gathered together in the central Puerta del Sol square with all leading politicians and numerous members of the public as manifestos and tributes were read out and the bells of the cathedrals and churches rang out in homage.
A prayer and sermon were read out by the Archbishop of Madrid.
Rajoy said he found it 'very comforting' that all political parties were pulling together in the fight against terrorism, especially in Spain and other countries which have had a long history of suffering at the hands of terrorist attackers.
A laurel wreath was placed over the plaque in memory of the victims on the front of the Royal Post Office, whilst the regional orchestra played Mozart's Requiem followed by the national anthem.
Later this morning, the group gathered at the monument set up for the victims at Atocha, which is signposted from everywhere within the station – including from the metro platform – with speeches and wreaths laid and participants who included everyone from unions to actors' guilds.
The huge group is now on its way on foot to the El Retiro park where they will set balloons flying from the 'Memory Forest' (Bosque del Recuerdo) planted for the train blast victims.
More tributes will be held in the Santa Eugenia neighbourhood and at El Pozo station this afternoon, and an offering of flowers will take place in the nearby town of Alcalá de Henares at the station.
Barcelona has joined in the homages, with Podemos mayoress Ada Colau tweeting: “Today, the people of Barcelona are united with our brothers and sisters in Madrid in memory of those who lost their lives in the 11-M attacks,” and tagged Madrid's mayoress @ManuelaCarmena, in her message.