By Producer
NBC News
updated 3/12/2004 6:57:59 PM ET 2004-03-12T23:57:59

NBC News has obtained a report a private consultant wrote for German intelligence earlier this year regarding recent evidence of the resurgence of the Basque separatist group ETA. The consultant met with Spanish intelligence and police in preparing the report. 

Here are the findings:

On  Dec. 17, there was a shootout near the town of La Coruna, Spain, in which a policeman was killed and an ETA operative severely wounded. Police had stopped a car at a checkpoint and found 132 kilograms of explosives — 290 pounds — and were told by the two men arrested that the ETA planned to construct one 90-kilogram — 200-pound — explosive plus additional explosives for an attack on train stations and shopping malls, all planned for Dec. 24, Christmas Eve. The two men, who admitted to ETA ties, were 24 and 26 years old.  The plan for the train station attack called for multiple simultaneous attacks on the Chamartin train station in Madrid, which was not among the stations attacked Thursday.

Slideshow: Terror strikes Madrid On  Dec. 24, Spanish authorities arrested two Basque men, also in their 20s.  The first was  traveling from San Sebastian in the Basque territories to Madrid on an Intercity train. Acting on a tip from another intelligence agency, the police opened his suitcase and found a bomb.  The police then searched the rest of the train and found another suitcase bomb, although this one was missing a fuse.  After interrogating the first man, they were able to arrest a second man in Hernani, near San Sebastian.   The two suitcases contained 28 kilograms (about 62 pounds) of titadyne, an industrial form of dynamite.  Both men identified themselves as ETA.  The first man was armed.

The police learned that the train was scheduled to arrive at Chamartin station at 3:12 p.m., and the timing fuse on the first bomb was set for 3:55 p.m.  It is not known whether the men planned to leave the bomb on board or move it to another location at the station.  The station would have been filled with holiday travelers on their way into and out of the Spanish capital.

Then, on  Feb. 29 in the town Canaveras, near Cuenca, about 90 miles southeast of  Madrid, police stopped a van headed for the capital and found 506 kilograms (1,111 pounds) of chloratite, an explosive similar to ammonium nitrate. When the van was pulled over, the driver told police that he was ETA and that they should be careful because the van was filled with explosives. He also told them he was following another explosives-laden car that was serving as a scout, warning of possible police activity ahead.  As it turned out, that car had been involved in a severe road accident.  Police quickly cordoned off that car. In it they found 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of dynamite. Both men were in their early 20s.

Police also found a map of an industrial area near Madrid and theorized the bomb was meant for hotels or publishing houses in the area, specifically the newspaper offices of La Razon and ABC, both strongly anti-ETA. The two men ultimately told police that their entire load was intended for a car bomb, which would have created a crater 100 feet across and could have killed hundreds.

Spanish police believed that ETA planned an attack near the date of Spain's elections, but thought they had foiled it with the Feb. 29 seizure.

Finally, Spanish police learned that ETA planned to blow up eight electrical stations around Madrid on the eve of the wedding of Crown Prince Philippe  May 22, hoping to black out the weddings.

Robert Windrem is an investigative producer for NBC News based in New York.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments