Thursday, March 11, 2004
Al Qaeda or ETA?: The Basque separatist group known by the acronym ETA is being blamed for today's train bombings in Spain.
Investigators have now reportedly found eight detonators and an audiotape of Koranic teachings in a van near a station on the same rail line where the bombings occurred.
The UPI has an informative article that outlines some of the reasons why this attack is more likely al Qaeda than ETA.
While all fingers in Spain are pointing at the Basque separatist movement ETA as the perpetrators of Thursday's atrocious train bombings that left some 186 dead and 600 wounded, the attacks carry all the markings of al-Qaida and its jihadi affiliates.
For starters the Brussels-based World Observatory of Terrorism, an independent think tank affiliated with the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center, points to five major reasons that cast doubt on the involvement of ETA.
First, ETA generally warns Spanish authorities moments before launching their attacks in which civilians are likely to be harmed. This, obviously, was not the case on Thursday.
Second, ETA traditionally targets representatives of the government or the administration, such as policemen, the military, magistrates or even journalists who oppose them.
Third, ETA customarily selects "symbolic" targets, such as military barracks and administrative buildings. Although ETA's largest attack to date was in 1987 against a supermarket in Barcelona that killed 21 people, this was the exception rather than the norm.
Fourth, ETA always claims its attacks. Following any ETA bombing, ETA militants call in a claim to Spanish authorities. This failed to happen this time.
Fifth, ETA has never in the past carried out multiple attacks. According to some sources, at least 10 bombs were detonated almost simultaneously on Thursday.
So the attacks are not typical of ETA's modus operandi. In fact, if this bombing had occurred anywhere in the world but Spain (or maybe Northern Ireland), al Qaeda would immediately be the main suspects.
The UPI article also notes that this sort of attack is against ETA's own best interests -- and they know it.
Another reason why it does not appear to make sense that ETA would be behind these attacks is that the Basque separatist movement already suffers from a lack of popular sympathy. If proof of these murderous killings were to be tied to ETA, the group would stand to loose even more support, without which it would have a hard time sustaining itself politically. Even the Basque population would reject such thoughtless killings and would begin to distance themselves from the group. Of this, the ETA leadership is well aware.
The investigation will continue, but don't be surprised if al Qaeda is ultimately to blame.