Basque terrorist group ETA yesterday planted small explosives in five petrol stations situated in key exit roads in an attempt to show that the terrorists are not beaten yet.
During the past few months ETA’s most notorious leaders have been captured in France, various hideouts have been discovered, and a great amount of materials, money and weapons belonging to the terrorist group has been confiscated from houses in France and Spain.
Apart from a few minor explosions set off in tourist areas in the Summer, ETA has been relatively silent all year, and last month a letter appeared in the Spanish media signed by some of the group’s key members from their prison cells, in which they stressed the need to call a ceasefire because, in their opinion, the group has become so weak that military action can no longer be considered a viable means of achieving their ultimate goal, an independant Basque state.
It looks like yesterday ETA wanted to cause chaos rather than take human lives.
A spokesperson from the group rang the Basque newspaper Gara to say where the bombs were planted and what time they would explode. Basque police informed the Spanish national police who had an hour to evacuate all the petrol stations and close the roads before the explosives went off.
The terrorists made the explosives with ammonium nitrate, which has been used by ETA before (and was also the chemical compound often used by the IRA before the ceasefire). According to Wikipedia, ammonium nitrate can be induced to decompose explosively by detonation and large stockpiles of the material can be a major fire risk, but fortunately each explosive yesterday was made up of just 50 – 200 grams.
The petrol stations were carefully chosen by the terrorists so as to cause havoc on the first day of this long long weekend. Monday is a bank holiday here in Spain, as is Wednesday, and schools are closed on Tuesday so Police were expecting as many as 8 million cars on the road over the next few days.
Whenever a long weekend like this arrives, all of Madrid’s exit roads have long traffic jams as madrileños rush out of the city on their way to a few days in their holiday homes in the warmer south of Spain, or in and beyond the Sierra, looking for some country peace and quiet or maybe the first skiing of this winter. The bombs were planted in a petrol station on each of the five major exit roads. Police closed the roads for two hours, and although they advised people to delay their departure, the time of the warning (5.30 pm) was cleverly planned because by that time most families were already on the roads leaving the city (primary schools finish at five 0’clock in Spain, and most people finish working at 3.
00 pm on Fridays).
Spain’s Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso said that these explosives did not necessarily mean that ETA had a new “stable infrastructure” in the city of Madrid. “Without wishing to undermine the seriousness of today’s attacks, it is not necessary to have a stable infrastructure to do what (ETA) has done today” he said.
Traffic was back to normal by late evening as many families seemed to have decided to turn back and start their holiday this morning instead to avoid long delays.