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Car bombs - favorite weapon of
terrorist group ETA

On October 30, 2000 the ETA committed a spectacular bombing in the Spanish capital. It was
not the first bombing of this kind. In 1973, using similar tactics, the ETA killed the Spanish
prime minister, Admiral Blanco. Often the Basque separatists carry out their explosive
attacks by following certain behavioral patterns. The knowledge about ETA´s methods
saved some victim´ lifes.

For the driver, Arming Medina, it was his last meal. He had breakfast at 8:45am. Just like on any
other day in the bistro. Little did he know, he had but 27 minutes to live. Outside, the Spanish
police officer, Garcia Escudero, was waiting in his vehicle (civilian Renault). For 20 days the 57
year-old officer was the bodyguard of Supreme Court Judge Jose Francisco Querol. The
police officer and the driver picked up the judge at his apartment in the Torrelaguna Street 65
shortly after nine.. When the car reached the pedestrian crossing at the intersection, the driver
braked and turned right onto Badajoz Street. In the moment when the car reached the second
parked car on the right of the roadside (9:12am), the judge´s vehicle was hurled 20 meters in the
air by the force of an explosive device and landed behind a waiting bus on the opposite of the
street. The three Renault passangers burned in the wreck. Some days later, the bus driver died
from his injuries.
The intersection looked like a road after a bombing raid in Bosnia - burning car wrecks, road
surfacing torn up. The rescue services had to set up a field hospital on the street.

The bloody result: four people died and 70 were hurt seriously. More than 400 apartments and
30 vehicles were damaged.
Explosive attacks are the weapon of choice of the ETA terrorists. Last year they committed over
21 explosive attacks.

Planning an execution of the bombing

The perpetrators were very familiar with the daily patterns of the judge. Every morning he
bought a newspaper in the kiosk next to his house. The driver took breakfast in the nearby
Cafee „Valencita“ at 08.15am before he picked up the judge in front of the apartment. He then
drove the judge to the court, passing by the busy intersection. The perpetrators parked the
red Renault with the 25 kg explosive device the night before at the intersection. They had
stolen the vehicle in a Madrid district months before. Thanks to their surveillance, the terorists
knew that the judge would drive by shortly after nine o´clock past the spot where the red
Renault was parked. One of the terrorists ignited the explosive device at the moment when the
judge´s car passed the stolen vehicle.

Location of the attempt

The busy district in which Judge Francisco Querol lived made it easy for the perpetrators to
carry out surveillance inconspicously. High apartment buildings provided the desired anony-
mity. Before the Judge´s car turned right at the intersection, the driver reduced the car´s speed
in front of the pedestrian crossing. Vehicles were parked along all the streets surrounding
judge´s apartment. Due to the shops and the many residents, other vehicles are parked perma-
nently at the roadsides so that it is not possible for the security services to know which cars are
usually parked there and which do not belong to the shop owners and residents. The inter-
section can be surveyed well from all sides. A subway is in the proximity. For the perpetrators
the intersection is the ideal place for the assassination of the judge. Here his car has to slow
down (pedestrian crossing and turning right at the intersection) and is therefore a better target.
This is very important because the terrorists want to detonate the explosive device manually
by remote control. If a vehicle has a speed of 50 kilometers per hour and the perpetrator activate
the device a second to early, the targeted person has good chance to survive. If the vehicle has
only a speed of 25 kilometers per hour, the car is still very near to the center of the explosion,
even if the device is triggered within a second of delay.

The intersection can be surveyed from all sides, and therefore the terrorists have a variety of
positions from where they can see the car in the moment it passes along the explosive device.
The subway station is at 60 meters distance from the spot of the explosion and therefore offers
a good possibility for escape. The Spanish police believe that the terrorists ignited the car bomb
from there.

Characteristics of the car bomb used by the ETA

The ETA attaches its explosive devices usually in or on the vehicles. After the attack, the perpe-
trators destroy their escape vehicle with an explosive device to blur evidence. Often the assassi-
nations are carried out on heavily symbolic days, like the condemnation of an arrested terrorist
or the anniversary of the death of one of them.

Two variants of car bombs are used by the ETA:

In a vehicle parked at the roadside, the explosive device explodes the moment the targeted
victim passes by.

The daily routine of the victims are studied by the terrorists who try to recognize patterns in the
victim´s habits. Sometimes during the transport of the explosive device to the site of the attack,
an other vehicle drives in front (like a five minute advance), in order to spot any police check
points. This lead car is equipped with a radio with which the terrorists can warn the team trans-
porting the explosive device. The car with the bomb is parked at the location where according
to the surveillance the victim will pass. The vehicles used for the attacks are stolen - sometimes
a year before the attack. Often the perpetrators use vehicles of French manufacture, like Renault,
or in some cases also Peugeot. Although it is unusual that terrorists steal vehicles so long be-
fore a bombing, this indicates that the ETA-terrorists have a good infrastructure, including gara-
ges. In many attacks the perpetrators steal a vehicle that corresponds to the color and type of
an existing vehicle. They forge the original number plates, so that the police check of the number
plate will not reveal that the car has been stolen.

The explosive amount of the devices, during this kind of attack, is usuallly between 20 and 25
kilograms. The explosives used during the last bombing, dated from theft in Brittany/France. At
some bombings, the perpetrators have mixed homemade explosives with commercial explosives.
The vehicles are frequently parked with the explosive cargo at interections, or in no parking
zones. In the past the terrorists have parked their explosive loaded cars at the camera monitored
locations (mostly at night). They manage to get out of the car so that their faces can not be
identified, although surveillance cameras are filming their activities. The only thing that can be
seen on the video tape is that the terrorists are handling something inside the vehicle (probably
arming the device) before leaving the car.

The explosive device is usualy ignited by remote control in this type of specific assassination.
Larger quantities of explosives are used (up to one ton) in bomb attacks against facilities. The
explosion is ignited by a timer. Here the perpetrators prefer to use Renault-Vans.

In attacks against facilities the terrorists sometimes transmit a bomb threat via phone. They
usually announce that the bomb will explode in half an hour. But the device always explodes
earlier than announced, generally 10 minutes earlier. The announcement isa aimed at killing
bomb disposal and police officers while they search the explosive device. The explosive
devices are frequently provided with anti-handling devices.

The terrorists install an explosive device inside or under the victim´s vehicle.

The perpetrators attach the explosive device on the vehicle of the victim usually during the
 night and when the car is parked in front of the residence or workplace. The terrorist´s sur-
veillance is far less intensive than during the type of bombings described earlier. The terrorists
do not have to select a suitable attack site along the victim´s route. The typical amount of
explosives lies between one and two kilograms. The ignition is usually carried out mechani-
cally or electrically, triggered by vibration (when the car moves). Up to now the perpetra-
tors have used three kinds of mechanism: a pendulum system which by the movement of
the vehicle swings and causes the mechanical ignition of the booby-trap, a ball which closes
 the electrical circuit when the car moves and ignites the bomb electrically and third a mercury
switch at which the mercury surrounds the two metal poles of the switch and closes the elec-
trical circuit as the vehicle moves. If the perpetrators use under-vehicle bombs, the explosive
device is inside a metallic container which is attached under the car with a magnet, for suction
cups, or with a special glue. To get inside the vehicle the terrorists have often broken the front
passenger door. They place the explosive device under the seats or on the back seat. Some
victims notice the forced opened front passenger door and contact the police just in time.

So, the terrorists have now started to connect the explosive devices electrically with the car´s
ignition, so it will detonate when the car is started. In at least one case this new kind of device
did not detonate. However, because of a defect only the blasting cap exploded, not the main
charge. The woman driving the car immediately stopped. Bomb disposal officers defused the

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