The March 11 bombings along Madrid's busy commuter rail line claimed nearly 200 lives, marking the deadliest terrorist attack in the history of Western Europe. But the casualties didn't end there: Within days, angry voters buried the government of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, dealing a weighted blow, in turn, to President Bush's "coalition of the willing" in Iraq. Mr. Aznar's successor, Socialist Jose Zapatero, announced immediate plans to withdraw Spain's 1,300 troops from the conflict.
The success of the bombings encouraged similar efforts elsewhere. A powerful car bomb exploded outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sept. 9, just weeks ahead of voting for Australia's prime minister. That same month, officials foiled an attempted car bombing of the Italian embassy in Lebanon.
U.S. officials worried that copycat terrorism could disrupt American elections, as well. Law enforcement went on alert, polling places were moved or reinforced, and Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.) closed his Washington offices until after the election.