Safety and Security
Spain and Andorra share with the rest of the world an increased threat of international terrorist incidents. Like other countries in the Schengen area, Spain's open borders with its Western European neighbors allow the possibility of terrorist groups entering and exiting the country with anonymity. Spain’s proximity to North Africa makes it vulnerable to attack from al-Qa’ida terrorists in the Maghreb region. We remind U.S. citizens to remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and to exercise caution at all times.
In March 2004, Islamist extremists bombed four commuter trains entering Madrid, causing 191 deaths and over 1,400 injuries. Spanish authorities tried the suspected terrorists and their co-conspirators in February 2007 and they were convicted in October 2007.
In 2011, the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) terrorist organization publicly announced a “definitive cessation of armed activity.” While recent arrests have seriously weakened the organization, and despite the announcement, ETA remains a threat and has not disarmed or disbanded. ETA has historically avoided targeting foreigners, instead directing their attacks against the police, military, local politicians, and Spanish government targets as well as towards disrupting transportation and daily life. However, foreigners have been killed or injured collaterally in ETA attacks, and the risk of being in the wrong place at the wrong time in event of an ETA action is a concern for foreign visitors and tourists. Two Ecuadorian nationals were killed in a bombing at the Barajas Airport in Madrid in 2006, and 17 students were injured, including one U.S. citizen, in a bombing at the University of Navarre in 2008. U.S. citizen tourists traveling to Spain should remain vigilant, exercise caution, monitor local developments, and avoid demonstrations and other potentially violent situations. Bombings outside the Basque Country in Burgos and Palma de Mallorca in July 2009 underscore the importance of being vigilant. Though extortion threats have recently ceased in the Basque region, bombs have been used as part of criminal extortion of businesses in the past.
Prior police approval is required for all public demonstrations in Spain, and police are present to ensure adequate security for participants and passers-by. Nonetheless, spontaneous demonstrations do take place in Spain from time to time in response to world events or local developments. Even demonstrations that are meant to be peaceful can become unpredictable and even violent; you should avoid them if at all possible. Be alert and aware of your surroundings, and pay attention to what the local news media have to say. In general, larger public demonstrations are announced on the Demonstrations page on the U.S. Embassy Madrid website.