The case against Eta: It has targeted trains before

If Thursday's bombing was carried out by the Basque separatist organisation Eta, the militants would have had the motivation, the equipment and the sophistication.

Although Eta yesterday categorically denied responsibility for the commuter train bombs, the rucksacks in which some of the bombs were placed each contained 10.2 kilos of the Spanish-made explosive Titadine, Spain's Interior minister Angel Acebes said last night. Titadine has been used in previous Eta attacks, and a large quantity of the explosive was stolen from a French mine some years ago.

However, police also said yesterday that one of the unexploded bombs contained a copper detonator, whereas the detonators commonly used by Eta are made of aluminium.

The bombs, which had their alarms set for 7.39am, were detonated by mobile phone. "Some people say that this sort of thing would be beyond Eta's capabilities ­ but we need to be circumspect," said Jonathan Eyal, the director of the Royal United Services Institute. "It is a fallacy to believe that Eta were somehow amateurs." Mr Eyal recalled that in the final days of the Franco era, the then prime minister, Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, was assassinated in Madrid by a bomb detonated as his armoured car passed by. "That was a very skilful operation ­ even 25 years ago Eta had the sophistication," he said.

The hallmarks of Eta bombings include a telephoned warning ahead of an attack. In the case of Thursday's bombing, no such warning was given. Eta claims invariably follow an attack, although not necessarily on the same day. Eta attacks also tend to be single, rather than the multiple, simultaneous "spectaculars" favoured by al-Qa'ida.

But Paul Heywood, an expert from Nottingham University, said the Basque separatist terrorists may have been trying to prove a point by carrying out such a large-scale atrocity. Spanish authorities had foiled what they said was an Eta attack planned for central Madrid, when they stopped a van containing half a ton of explosives, and detained two people on 29 February. It was also known that Eta operatives had been looking at railway stations as a possible target: at Christmas, Spanish police foiled an Eta attack on a train using rucksack bombs.

Throughout its 36-year struggle for independence, Eta has variously targeted the military or civilians to coincide with broader political aims. The timing of Thursday's attacks ­ only three days before Sunday's general election ­ appears to have an obvious political motive. The Eta thinking may be that its support would grow in its Basque homeland if a re-elected conservative government cracks down even further on separatists. The Aznar government has consistently refused Basque calls for a referendum on further regional powers. The Prime Minister has ruled out any negotiations and has banned Eta's political wing, Batasuna.

Could there be a link between al-Qa'ida operatives and Eta? Although there are known links among European organisations, Mr Eyal thought an alliance to be extremely unlikely. "There would be a monumental backlash against Eta in the Basque country if it allied itself with al-Qa'ida," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?