March 27, 1977: Bombing at Spanish airport leads to fatal crash

On March 27, 1977 a bomb exploded at an airport in the Canary Islands, wounding only one but leading to the single largest airliner accident in history.

LAS PALMAS AIRPORT, CANARY ISLANDS – Tiny terrorist attacks can at times lead to catastrophic death levels.

I would imagine that every terrorist has grand goals in mind. After all, if you are going to kill yourself you want to make a statement, no? And what better way to do so than to take as many lives as possible at the same time?

It is also probable that a given terrorist has no real idea just how much his (or her) act will reverberate down the line. S/he has neither the smarts nor even the intention, perhaps, to realise just where all this is going.

One such event occurred way back in 1977.

On this day in 1977

A small bomb went off in the terminal of the Las Palmas airport in the Spanish Canary Islands, wounding only one person. This small act, however, led to the closure of that facility, the rerouting of planes to Tenerife, and the single largest airplane collision in history when two 747s collided, leading to the deaths of 583 people. The original bomb was placed by the Movimiento para la Autodeterminación e Independencia del Archipiélago Canario (MPAIAC), a Canary Islands independence group.

Canarias se encuentra en estado de guerra desde el primero de noviembre y hemos advertido a todos los turistas que no vengan a las islas mientras no se alcance la independencia y se normalice la situación. (The Canary Islands have been in a state of war since November 1st and we have warned all tourists not to visit until we get independence and the situation returns to normal).

Antonio Cubillo, Secretary-General of MPAIAC

I am going out on a limb by stating that MPAIAC had no idea what its tiny act of terrorism would lead to (do you agree?). Well, as they say, a butterfly’ wings in one part of the world can set off a cascading series of events that lead to a hurricane elsewhere. Maybe not, but there certainly was a cause and effect here!

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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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