Police have arrested the man who bought the mobile phone that was used to warn the authorities of the car bomb that exploded in the University of Navarra car park in Pamplona last Thursday morning. Local officials said the warning had been vague and Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said the Basque terrorist group ETA had obviously intended to cause a blood bath. However, no-one was killed, and only 15 people were injured, even though the bomb went off near the library which was full of students at the time. It was the sixth time ETA had been targeted the University. Two days earlier, police had arrested four suspected ETA members – three of them in Pamplona. Guns and a large quantity of explosives were also seized in the raids. The Navarra region is separate from the Basque Country, but nationalists argue that it should also form part of an independent Basque homeland.
Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in six cities in the Basque region last Saturday, demanding the right to a referendum on independence. The governing Basque Nationalist Party had hoped to consult the electorate that day on negotiations towards a full referendum on independence within two years, but last month the Supreme Court declared the plan unconstitutional. In another sign of protest against the court’s ruling, there were explosions at two Basque railway stations. Shortly after midnight last Friday, a small bomb brought down the ceiling of a ticket hall in the town of Berriz, and two hours later, petrol bombs were hurled at ticket machines in the nearby town of Amorebieta. There were no injuries. Police are investigating whether the bombings were the work of the armed separatist group ETA or young nationalist sympathisers. During Saturday’s march, police had to separate Basque nationalist demonstrators from a rival rally by a far-right party – which proclaimed that Spain would never be divided. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has portrayed the proposed referendum as political manoeuvring ahead of regional elections next March. But in a newspaper interview, the head of the regional government, Juan Jose Ibarretxe, said Madrid had shown an arrogant disregard for the rights of the Basque people.
Despite strong protests from local residents, Madrid City Council went ahead with its plan to demolish Carabanchel jail last week. The local people had wanted its central dome to be preserved in memory of the hundreds of political prisoners who built it between 1940 and 1944 to house Franco’s political enemies. Many of the prisoners themselves also wanted to see it preserved. It was one of the biggest prisons in Europe until its closure in 1998. The structure followed the panopticon model devised by Jeremy Bentham in 1785. Until Franco’s death in 1975, the prison was used exclusively for members of democratic and leftist political parties and union leaders. After his death, it only housed common criminals and members of the Basque terrorist group ETA and other terrorist groups remained. After it closed down, the building was heavily looted and was used as a squat by marginal communities. Most of the prison walls are covered with graffiti, some of them very elaborate. The local authorities to build a housing complex, a leisure complex and a hospital on the land but the local residents hope they may build a replica of the jail’s landmark dome as a memorial to the struggle for democracy in Spain.
A small bomb exploded outside a court in Tolosa in the Basque Country in the early hours of last Saturday morning, causing material damage but no injuries. A man claiming to represent the Basque terrorist group, called the Basque traffic department to warn of an imminent blast about half an hour before the explosion. The device was left in a rucksack on the steps of the court. It was the fourth bomb attack since the Supreme Court in Madrid banned two Basque parties because of their links to ETA over two weeks ago. More than 850 people died during ETA’s four-decade campaign to set up an independent state straddling northern Spain and south-western France. The group resumed its campaign of violence in December 2006, following the failure of secret talks with the government, but recent arrests both in Spain and France have considerably weakened the group, according to Interior Ministry officials.
A Spanish judge has asked Interpol to investigate the whereabouts of Jose Ignacio de Juana Chaos, the Basque terrorist leader who got out of jail recently after serving 22 years of a 3,000-year jail sentence for his involvement in the deaths of 25 people in the mid/1980s. He left Spain with his wife on August 2nd, the same day he was released. He was said to be in Dublin at the invitation of Sinn Fein, where he tried to obtain a new passport from the Spanish embassy there. When police went to the address he gave, he was not there and is now believed to be in Belfast. He is currently wanted in Spain for questioning about a letter he allegedly wrote to a group of supporters in which he praised the Basque terrorist group ETA and extolled the use of violence for political ends. If this proves true, De Juana can be sent back to jail, which is where most people would like to see him anyway.
Six agents belonging to the Provincial Information Brigade in Bilbao were fired last week after it was discovered they had not listened to taped telephone conversations involving a suspected ETA terrorist which might have prevented recent car bomb attacks in the north of Spain. The Provincial Information Brigades have the specific function of keeping track of suspected ETA terrorists and their accomplices. The six men had been tapping Asier Borrero’s phone but terminated the operation in June this year after deciding that he was only interested in having a good time and doing drugs and probably had no connection with the Basque terrorist group. A few weeks later, on July 22, the Guardia Civil arrested nine members of the so-called Vizcaya complex, who had been running explosives over the French border. Several others managed to get away, among them Asier Borrero. When his name was mentioned by one of the detained, the taped conversations were given another listening. Borrero did talk about drugs but he also talked about transporting explosives from France to Santo Domingo de la Calzada in Rioja province. The same detainee had also mentioned several ETA hiding places, one of them in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Acting on that information, the Guardia subsequently discovered 100 kilos in the hide-out there in an operation which was supervised by National Court Judge Baltasar Garzón. The second listening also revealed that Borrero had had several conversations with members of the Vizcaya complex, which the six Brigade agents had failed to pick up.
The 14 members of the illegal Batasuna party who were detained in the French Basque Country last Thursday were released two days later after being questioned in Bayonne. The Batasuna party is not illegal in France, but the group were detained at the request of the Anti-terrorist Prosecutor’s Office in Paris as part of an investigation into the financing of the Communist Party of the Basque Country (PCTV), which was illegalised by Spain’s National Court the previous week. Last Monday, police in south-west France detained six suspected Basque militants following an investigation into the financing of terror attacks. Last Tuesday, the French police arrested two suspected members of the Basque terrrorist group ETA, following three weekend car bombs blamed on the group, one of which killed a Spanish army officer. Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said last Monday that the weekend attacks were apparently planned and prepared in France. ETA has traditionally used France as a base for its activities. Police last year discovered a bomb-making factory in the southern French town of Cahors, and last December two Guardia Civil were shot dead by suspected ETA members while conducting a reconnaissance mission in France.