Patterns of Global Terrorism 1996 - Spain

The separatist Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) organization conducted its biggest campaign against Spanish tourist sites in years – a total of 14 bombings or attempted bombings in July and August. In the most devastating attack, 35 persons – including approximately two dozen British tourists – were injured on 20 July when a bomb exploded in a waiting room at an airport near the coastal city of Tarragona. Authorities also believe that ETA, which occasionally targets French businesses in Spain, was responsible for a package bomb that exploded in a Citroen car dealership near Zaragoza in July, injuring the owner and his son. In March police defused a car bomb placed in front of a French-owned store in Madrid following a telephone warning from a caller claiming to represent the Basque extremist group. ETA also continued to attack Spanish military, police, and economic targets throughout 1996.

The Aznar government, which came to power in May, has vowed to work diligently to neutralize ETA and has put special emphasis on strengthening cooperation with other states – particularly France – in this effort. In May press reports indicated that France planned to assign a police attache to its Embassy in Madrid to coordinate daily cooperation with Spain. Moreover, Madrid and Paris signed an agreement in June that allowed for the establishment of four joint police stations – three on the French side of the border. Meanwhile, Spain persuaded France to help reform a European extradition treaty in the European Union to allow "simple membership in an armed band" to be sufficient cause for extradition.

Spanish authorities extradited Achille Lauro hijacker Majed Yousef al-Molqi to Italy in early December. They had captured al-Molqi on 22 March in southern Spain after he failed to return to an Italian prison in February following a 12-day furlough for good behavior. In 1986 an Italian court sentenced al-Molqi, a Palestinian affiliated with the Abu Abbas faction of the Palestine Liberation Front, to 30 years in prison for killing Leon Klinghoffer, a wheelchair-bound US citizen, during the hijacking of the Italian luxury ship in 1985.

Madrid struck a blow against the Algerian Armed Islamic Group's (GIA) infrastructure in Spain with the arrest of suspected GIA member Farid Rezgui on 14 June. Rezgui reportedly had some 30 sets of false Italian, French, Spanish, and Algerian identification documents in his possession, presumably for use by GIA members to facilitate their movements in Europe. Authorities reportedly also found magazines published by GIA and other Islamic extremist groups, as well as video and audiocassette tapes of speeches by Islamic leaders, including Shaykh Umar Abd al-Rahman, the spiritual leader of the Egyptian extremist al-Gama'at al-Islamiyya.

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