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Date Reported: Monday, January 03, 2000
Incident Type: SECURITY

Incident: U.S. Embassy Madrid has reported the following account by the Spanish press on the thwarting of two bomb incidents by the Basque separatist group ETA (Euzkadi ta Askatasuna - Basque Fatherland & Liberty):

Two weeks after revoking its unilateral ceasefire of December 3, 1999, the ETA activated a previously unknown cell, called the "Jabali" commando unit, based in the Basque province of Alava. According to the Spanish media, the "Jabali" unit was formed at the end of 1996, from ETA members or sympathizers who had no criminal record, and were thus unknown to the authorities. "Jabali" recruits were trained by masked individuals, and directed in the future to pick up vehicles loaded with explosives, without knowing who had prepared them.

In the latest aborted incidents headlined in the Madrid press, "Jabali" members traveled to southern France, where they picked up two stolen, commercial-type delivery vans. The vehicles were packed with 1700 kilos of chloratite and dynamite explosives, one van holding 950 kilos, and the second 750 kilos. The explosive charges also had timing devices wired to them, both set to go off at 19:56 hours (one of the busiest times of the day, when Spaniards are going home and settling down to their dinner hour).

The ETA caravan, consisting of the two van bombs, preceded by a lead vehicle driven by a female ETA member set off for Madrid. As the motorcade passed the vicinity of Catalayud (in Aragon, on the main highway between Zaragoza and Madrid), one van was flagged down by the Spanish Civil Guard on suspicion that it was overloaded. The driver refused to disclose the contents of his vehicle, and was arrested on the spot. He is now being held incommunicado, without bail. The driver of the second van, becoming aware of the detention and plight of the first driver, abandoned his explosives-laden conveyance, leaped into the lead car, and fled the scene with the female accomplice.

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