Tears and defiance on the weekend that Madrid buried its dead

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Funerals were held this weekend at Madrid's main mosque for Muslim victims of the terrorist bombings.

For like the World Trade Centre attacks of 30 months ago, which claimed several hundred Muslim lives, Thursday's bombings have inflicted tragedy upon the city's community of 200,000 Muslims.

Sanae Ben Salah, 13, was one of at least seven Moroccans killed in the train bombings that claimed 200 lives and left 1,400 injured. She and two Moroccan men were given funerals at the Islamic Cultural Centre, which houses the city's largest mosque, before their bodies, in black-shrouded metal crates, were loaded into a van and taken to the airport for the flight to Morocco.

Waiting for her body to emerge from the mosque, Sanae's friends sat weeping in a room near the main hall. She was a kind girl, they said. She was the product of divorced parents, she lived with an uncle in the town of Alcala de Henares, but every morning she took the train to school in Madrid.

"She was a precious girl, beautiful and kind," said Amina Saruk, 45, a Moroccan immigrant whose daughter, Iman, was Sanae's best friend. Her eyes swollen from crying, Iman, also 13, shook her head when asked about her friend and then began to weep.

Now, her friends said, the Spanish-born girl was on her way back to Tangiers with her mother to be buried in the homeland of her parents.

One of the other funerals at the mosque was for Mohammed Itaiben, 27, whose body is being sent to his birthplace, near the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.

Elsewhere in Madrid, mourners were saying goodbye to Jose Garcia, 45, from el Pozo, the working-class district in the commuter belt outside the capital. Every day he travelled by train to a bank in the city.

"Adios, my love," cried Mr Garcia's mother, Eleonor Sanchez, 75, as he was taken to be buried. She beat her palm on the coffin: "Goodbye, forever. I will never see you again. I feel rage. Why, why, why has this happened?"

Mr Garcia's father yelled in anger: "The politicians said we have to go on Sunday to vote. What we must vote for is the death penalty for these criminals. I want them to suffer like we suffer."

Over the weekend, Spain also buried a telephone operator married to her childhood sweetheart, a union activist and his son, an army officer and sometime UN peacekeeper and a janitor from Peru.

Some 38 bodies remained unidentified yesterday. Relatives were gradually coming forward throughout the weekend to provide samples for DNA testing, but many of the remaining dead are believed to be illegal immigrants, with relatives fearful to come forward to claim their bodies.

About a third of the dead were immigrants from 11 countries, including a Pole and his six-month-old daughter.

Hundreds of distraught families crowded into the Tanatorio Sur, the South Funeral Parlour, yesterday where Juan Antonio Sánchez Quispe, 43, a janitor, was one of five Peruvians being mourned.

"His life was the life of all immigrants here,'' said a friend, Ismael Bernabe, also from Peru. "A hard worker. A father. He went to work every morning on that train."

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