– April 1, 2008, Basque separatist group, ETA, claims responsibility for assassination of former town councilman, Isaias Carrasco
– Group issues communiqué stating, will not “remain with its arms crossed” while members are detained and arrested
– Spanish Interior Minister warns more ETA attacks likely during summer months
On April 1, 2008, Basque separatist group, ETA, claimed responsibility for the March 7, 2008, assassination of former Socialist councilor, Isaias Carrasco . Carrasco was shot dead outside of his home in the Basque town of Mondragon (Previous Report). Using the Basque-language newspaper, Gara, ETA claimed responsibility for the assassination and four bombings carried out over the past two months. In the statement, ETA warned it would not “remain with its arms crossed while it watches how people are detained, tortured, and condemned for life or political parties are made illegal without impunity.”
Following the recent spate of attacks, and controversy over the re-election of Socialist Prime Minister (PM), Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, warned the country must prepare for an increase in ETA violence. Referencing ETA’s June 2007 announcement ending a previously called 15-month ceasefire, Rubalcaba stated, “If ETA broke its truce, it was to go back to violence and for this reason we must prepare for a long cycle of violence” (Previous Report).
ETA Claims Responsibility for Assassination
On April 1, 2008, ETA officially claimed responsibility for the shocking March 2008 assassination of former Socialist councilor, Isaias Carrasco. Publishing a communiqué in the Basque-language newspaper, Gara, ETA claimed responsibility for the murder and four additional bombings that had occurred in recent months. Carrasco’s murder occurred two days prior to the Spanish national election, in an apparent attempt to disrupt Spanish PM Zapatero’s campaign efforts for re-election.
The attack indicated ETA’s resurgence and underscored its continued commitment to its fight for an independent Basque state. Further the brazen attack served as a painful reminder of PM Zapatero’s continued failures to negotiate with the terror group. Following his March 2008 re-election, Zapatero highlighted a key government priority would be to fight “against ETA’s terrorism.” Recognizing his failed efforts to negotiate with the armed terror group, PM Zapatero stated, “This must be the case in the next four years, until ETA completely disappears.”
Two weeks following the assassination, a car bomb detonated outside of a police station in Calahorra, La Rioja, in northern Spain. Following a telephone call warning of the attack, police attempted to fully evacuate the area, however one police officer suffered light injuries as a result of the attack.
Officials Warn of Increased Attacks
In the aftermath of the March 2008 ETA attacks, Spanish security services remain concerned the group is planning a summer campaign of violence. Concerns were heightened as a direct result of the Carrasco assassination, indicating ETA was actively seeking to ramp-up attacks. Despite the recent arrests of key ETA leadership, security services indicate the group appears steadfast in its determination to continue the violence.
Citing increased frustration over PM Zapatero’s failed efforts to forge a peace agreement, anti-terrorism officials believe ETA’s next target of choice may be the PM himself, either by using political pressure or resorting to violence. One official stated, “We now believe ETA will start a prolonged campaign to put Zapatero under pressure.”
Additionally, Spanish Interior Minister Rubalcaba has warned the country must prepare for an increase in ETA violence. Referencing ETA’s June 2007 announcement ending a previously called 15-month ceasefire, Rubalcaba stated, “If ETA broke its truce, it was to go back to violence and for this reason we must prepare for a long cycle of violence.”
As we previously reported, we believe future ETA-inspired attacks are likely (Previous Report). Despite recent significant crackdowns on the group, the March 7, 2008 Carrasco assassination has reignited fears ETA is returning to its roots– targeting political leaders. Further, the return to violence underscores ETA’s renewed commitment to violent attacks.
We believe ETA will continue to seek to retaliate against the Zapatero-led government. To this end, we will see continued terror plots bearing the traditional hallmarks of ETA – chaotic violence with less emphasis on civilian casualties. However, the Carrasco assassination may also indicate an increased targeting of government officials.
The recent April 2008 communiqué wherein the group claimed responsibility for recent attacks underscores ETA’s determination to remain in the public eye. Further its warning it would not “remain with its arms crossed while it watches how people are detained, tortured, and condemned for life or political parties are made illegal without impunity,” indicates it may wage increased attacks in a bid to remain relevant in the near-term.