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Goodman: Blasts come amid heightened security

CNN's Al Goodman

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A series of bombs rip through Madrid's rail stations.

Spain's prime minister vows to crush terrorists.

Terrorism expert says tactics used in attacks could signal new trend.
Acts of terror
Al Goodman

MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- Massive, well-coordinated attacks on Madrid's commuter train system Thursday morning killed and wounded hundreds of people at the height of the city's rush hour.

Spanish officials blamed the Basque separatist group ETA, but no one has claimed responsibility. CNN's Al Goodman filed the following report from the scene:

GOODMAN: The bombings focused on a series of three commuter trains pulling into the southern Atocha train station in Madrid. The one that was closest to the Atocha train station took one of the biggest hits. Many were killed or injured on that train. Two other commuter trains were hit somewhat farther out, on the southeastern flank of the capital.

They would have been heading in apparently to the Atocha train station as well. This happened just before 8 a.m. local time, which would have been when the trains would have been packed with standing room only for commuters.

The blame -- right now -- is being placed by officials on the Basque separatist group ETA.

ETA is listed as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union -- of which Spain is a member.

As far as security is concerned in the Spanish train system, the only train that is really thoroughly checked -- as if it were airport security -- is the bullet train that goes to the south of Spain, and now there's a new bullet train going to the northeastern region, which probably has similar security.

I've been aboard the bullet train many times. You have to put all of your luggage through a scanner. They really take a solid look at you before they let you on that train. There are tens of thousands of people riding the commuter trains and the metros every day in this capital of 5 million people -- Madrid and the surrounding region.

Authorities have never tried to establish that kind of airport-type security on these trains. Last Christmas Eve the police say they thwarted an ETA attempt to blow up a train at the northern station here in Madrid, the Chamartin station.

On that occasion, police arrested two men. One of them had already placed, the police said, an explosive device in sort of a backpack on the train and had just left it there. And luckily [the police] got to it in time. Unfortunately, they did not get to these in time. The interior minister of the nation says there was no warning.

The attacks came while the nation was under extra security because of national elections for parliament and prime minister -- which are set for this Sunday.

There's been a much visible, very visible stepped up police presence on the streets of the capital, where you see police vans and dark-blue uniformed national police officers from the elite units standing guard at various intersections and round about where they are not usually on duty.

We were just in the northern city of Zaragoza a couple of days ago to cover the campaign rally of the conservative Popular Party candidate. And as we came into that town, there was a spot, a sudden police check that involved several police vehicles zigzagged across the street checking people.

They pulled over a car with a couple of young guys. Everybody else had to go through this security check that was a very serious check by police officers, who had machine guns in their hands. So there has been stepped up security, but in terms of presence check -- everybody getting onto commuter trains -- we haven't seen anything like that. That would be a daunting task.

Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar has addressed the nation on television vowing to finish off the terrorists. He said there would be no talks and a united Spain would stand up and be able to defeat them with strong police forces, a judiciary to put them in jail so that they would never see the light of day again and with legislation.

Aznar went on to express condolences to the victims. He called for several days of national mourning and for massive protests in the streets on Friday at 7 p.m. Spaniards have been donating blood at hospitals here in Madrid, which are working at maximum capacity.

Other Spaniards took some of the victims to the hospital on their own before ambulances arrived on the scene.

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