August 22, 1975: Montoneros terrorists sabotage Argentinian NAVY ship as retaliation for the Trelew massacre

On this day in 1975, the Argentinian leftist terrorist group Montoneros attached a limpet mine to a naval ship to avenge the massacre of fellow leftists.

Many terrorists seek to attack easy targets, but this is not always the case.

I would imagine that it is a safe assumption that most people want to succeed in life. After all, there is nothing quite like a job well done. You feel good about yourself and the task you have accomplished.

The same goes for terrorism. Terrorists want to succeed, not to fail. Success brings notoriety and notoriety attracts more people to your cause. Some who hear of your success may even seek to want to become part of your movement, thereby increasing your numbers.

As a consequence, some terrorists and terrorist groups go for the low hanging fruit, i.e. targets not difficult to access and bring down. This may explain why we are seeing so many low-tech attacks in many countries these days (the latest one in Germany may be a good example). There is also ample evidence that terrorist groups such as ISIS advocate this strategy, in almost a Nike ‘Just Do It’ way.

Then again, some groups do exactly the opposite, aiming at a very hard goal. Perhaps the smaller chances of success will mean more attention. Whatever the reason, there has to be a cost-benefit trade off here.

On this day in 1975

A good example of ‘going for the gold’ occurred on this day in 1975. A terrorist group known as the Montoneros (Movimiento Peronista Montonero-MPM), an Argentinian leftist bunch which was active in the 1960s and 1970s, deployed divers to attach a limpet mine to the belly of the Argentinian Navy’s ARA Santísima Trinidad (“Most Holy Trinity”), causing significant damage but injuring no one.

The date was chosen as a retaliation for the Trelew massacre three years earlier when a number of leftist militants, most of whom were from the People’s Revolutionary Army (Ejercito Revolucionario Popular in Spanish, or ERP), were executed inside an airbase operated by the navy. The attack on the Santisima Trinidad involved the use of a folding boat, frogmen and a mine with 170 kg of explosives, which was laid on the river bed below the destroyer after a failed attempt to attach the device to the hull. The ship’s bottom and electronics suffered severe damage, and completion was suspended for a year as a result of the attack.

Despite the relative lack of success – the ship was eventually commissioned and served as lead ship in Argentina’s invasion of the Falkland Islands (which they called las islas Malvinas) in 1982 (remember THAT war??) – it was quite the bold act. And it sure got people’s attention! But that is just what terrorists want after all.

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Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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