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February 24, 1978 | Bombing in the Canary Islands

On this day in 1978, police explosives expert tried to disarm a bomb placed outside a bank in San Cristobal de la Laguna in Tenerife: he died from wounds sustained in the detonation.

Terrorist movements often are linked to independence movements: violence is seen as the only path to freedom.

TODAY IN TERRORISM — When you look at the history of terrorism across time and across nations you will inevitably find that many individuals and groups have a territorial design to them. By this I mean that political violence is often ‘justified’ by citing a desire to gain independence from a larger power or achieve the exit of an occupying one.

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The elder PM Trudeau’s response to a question on how he would deal with the FLQ

The number of examples is huge, but let me cite just one close to my heart (and, indirectly, professional experience): the Front de Liberation du Quebec (FLQ – Quebec Liberation Front). This terrorist group started its campaign of violence (bombings and eventually assassination) in 1963 all in an effort to carve out a Quebec separate from Canada.

The FLQ peaked with the kidnapping of British diplomat James Cross and Quebec Transport Minister Pierre Laporte (whom they later killed) in October 1970. This is now universally known as the ‘October Crisis’ and led to the very rare invocation of the War Measures Act by the then Pierre Trudeau government and the subsequent wave of arrests and suspension of civil liberties. 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of this incident and I will be very interested to see how Canadians choose to remember/mark it.

I wrote that the FLQ had ‘peaked’ in 1970. I used the term deliberately as no violence aimed at forcing Quebec independence has been seen since. The FLQ is gone and there has not been any replacement that sought to use similar tactics. True, there are still some Quebecers who strive for their own country but none advocate the use of terrorist actions to achieve it (never say never though).

True, there are still some Quebecers who strive for their own country but none advocate the use of terrorist actions to achieve it.

I will leave the discussion over why some actors opt for terrorism in their quest for independence for others. It is nevertheless true on occasion that some conclude there is no other way. From a law enforcement/security intelligence view we have of course to prevent these individuals and groups from carrying out attacks that kill and maim others.

And then there are the independence movements that are relatively unknown. For instance, did you know that there is a movement calling for Spain to give the Canary Islands their own government? As an aside, did you know these islands have nothing to do with birds? The name derives from the Latin word for ‘dog’ because apparently there are a lot of these animals there – go figure.

Canary Islands Independence Movement

On this day in 1978 a police explosives expert tried to disarm a bomb placed outside a bank in San Cristobal de la Laguna in Tenerife: he died on March 8 from wounds sustained in the detonation. The device had been put together and deployed by the Movimiento por la Autodeterminaci√≥n e Independencia del Archipi√©lago Canario (MAIAC – Spanish for Movement for the Independence and Self-determination of the Canaries Archipelago, aka Canary Islands Independence Movement – CIIM).

The movement’s flag

This group was formed in 1964 and sought to convince Canarians to “go back to their roots” in part through efforts to popularise the Berber language (NB I am a linguist and I had no idea the original tongue of the islands was called Guanche and is related to Berber, more commonly associated with Algeria and Morocco).  It was not very successful as the target audience was averse to the violent methods used: it is believed that the MAIAC at its height had no more than 100 members.

The Canary Islands remain an ‘autonomous community’ of Spain. I am unaware of any other serious movement that is calling for independence, certainly not through violence.

Alas, there are lots of other groups not shy to do so.


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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