Assassination of Prime Minister Luis Carrero Blanco – December 20, 1973

On this day in 1973, a massive bomb buried under a Madrid street exploded as a car carrying Prime Minister Carrero Blanco detonated.

If you are a terrorist group the highest achievement is the elimination of a head of state. The Basque group ETA attained this goal in 1973.

Of all the terrorist groups that have tried to have an effect on the societies in which they live it would be hard to come up with many that are more longlasting than ETA – Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, a Basque separatist organisation. Formed in 1959, ETA moved from an initial focus on promoting Basque culture to the use of terrorist violence to push for outright independence.

Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA)

ETA was responsible for at least 829 deaths, the vast majority in Spain. 1980 was its deadliest year: 118 people were killed over that time period alone. Some attacks were ‘mistakes’ for which the group apologised.

Logo of Euskadi Ta Askatasuna.png
The ETA symbol

A car bomb exploded in a department store parking garage in Barcelona in June 1987, killing 15 and wounding 39. As was its practice, the terrorist group had called to give advance warning of the bomb but officials elected not to evacuate the premises.

Basque terrorists were also erroneously accused of carrying out other attacks. The catastrophic May 2004 metro bombings in Madrid which killed nearly 200 and injured another 1,600 were initially blamed on ETA but turned out to be Islamist extremists. The government’s error as well as its perceived inability to keep Spaniards safe led to its defeat in general elections three days later.

Assassination of Luis Carrero Blanco

On this day in 1973, ETA succeeded in carrying out an act that is at the top of all terrorists’ agenda: the assassination of a leader. A massive bomb buried under a Madrid street exploded as a car carrying Prime Minister Carrero Blanc , the heir apparent to dictator Francisco Franco, detonated. The car with its three occupants inside was blasted 35 metres straight up into the air, leaving a huge crater in the road.

The PM died in hospital minutes later. The effect on Spain was significant: an incident of this scale was not supposed to happen under Franco. ETA had scored an amazing success.

Many other attacks followed over the decades. Car bombings were a favourite tactic.

ETA no more

After all these years, it looks like ETA may be no more. The group announced in May 2018 that it has completely dissolved all its structures and has terminated its political initiative.” It had held to a ceasefire signed in 2011, probably with the hope of a negotiated settlement with Spain. That did not happen.

It is interesting that this terrorist group called it quits despite its lack of success in gaining its original goals. The organisation could be called a failure. In the words of Spain’s Interior Minister:

“ETA didn’t get anything for stopping to kill and will not get anything for declaring its disappearance.”

Spain’s Interior Minister

Never say never though. Causes have a way of lasting, or resurfacing. I would not count Basque nationalist terrorism out just yet.

By Phil Gurski

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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