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  Saturday, December 7, 2019
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Spain's King Juan Carlos inaugurated ceremonies Friday in Madrid's Buen Retiro park
Spain's King Juan Carlos inaugurated ceremonies Friday in Madrid's Buen Retiro park to mourn the first anniversary of the train bombings that killed 191 passengers and wounded over 1,500 others in the Spanish capital. The king and other dignitaries, including United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and over 20 heads of state, observed five minutes silence in front of the "Forest of the Absent," a plantation of 192 olive and cypress trees, one for each of the 191 passengers killed and one for a policeman who also died in the attack. Many Spaniards also paid silent tribute, with people stopping on the streets and trains making unscheduled stops, grieving for the victims of the bomb blasts. The Spanish government has made March 11 a national day of mourning, with national flags flying at half-mast and a five-minute silence observed at noon, reports Xinhuanet. According to the Guardian Unlimited, people across the country observed five minutes silence as a main memorial service began in Madrid's biggest park at midday local time (1100GMT). A grove in the park, where 192 olive and cypress trees have been planted to honour the victims of the bombs and a special forces officer who died while trying to arrest suspects three weeks later, has been named the Forest of the Absent. King Juan Carlos presided over the memorial ceremony, with the attending dignitaries including the prime minister, Jos? Luis Rodr?guez Zapatero, and King Mohamed VI of Morocco. Morocco was the country of origin of most of the 22 suspects awaiting trial over the attack. It was King Mohamed's first visit to Spain since Mr Zapatero took office following the attacks, and was intended to send a message that the two countries must set aside their past differences and tackle terror threats. After the service, a cellist, dressed in black, played Song of the Birds by Pablo Casals, a piece the late Spanish composer had dedicated to peace.
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