Terrorism in Europe

“Terrorism in Europe”

MINSK 2008


Introduction. General overview

1. Terrorism in Spain. ETA

1.1 Context

1.2 Goals

1.3 Structure

1.4 Tactics

1.5 Political Issues

1.6 History

1.7 Terrorism in Northern Ireland

1.8 Terrorism in Greece. November 17

1.9 Counter-terrorism



Terrorism in Europe. General overview

Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent alerts, violence, and threats worldwide, the war on terror has been at the forefront of international affairs. In 2001, Europe expressed its solidarity with the United States in the initiation of an international effort to curb the threat of terrorism throughout the world.

While in this work I have primary tried to focus on the more well-known and active groups, namely the IRA, the ETA, and 17 November, with a discussion of Islamic groups within Europe, these are by no means the only terrorist organizations currently operation within Europe. In reality, no region of Europe has been able to escape the direct effects of terrorism over the past 50 years. For instance, though the ETA is the most famous of the Spanish terrorist organization, the First of October Antifascist Resistance Group (GRAPO) is a left-wing, anarchist, terrorist organization that has been operating in Spain for the past three decades. It came into the international spotlight in 1975, when four Spanish policemen were killed in retaliation for the execution of five GRAPO members. GRAPO was last active in November 2000, when they exploded a series of bombs in Vigo, Seville and Valencia.

In Italy, the Brigate Rosse, or Red Brigade, has been active sine the 1960s. This extreme left, Marxist-Leninist group aims at separating Italy from the Western alliance, by targeting government symbols all over Italy. The peak of activity for this group occurred in the 1970's and 1980's, in a series of bombings and attacks that terrorized the country, though the group has been in decline over the past decade. On 12 December 1969, an Italian bank was blown up, killing 16 people; 106 more casualties followed the next year when an Italian train was derailed by the anarchist group. However, the most notorious incident took place in 1978, when former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro was kidnapped, after which point he was brutally murdered. In December of 1983 that year, the Red Brigade took US Army Brigadier General James Dozier, but this time, a successful rescue operation prevented a repeat of the Moro incident. Other groups were active in Italy at the same time. In 1973, Italian neo-fascists detonated two bombs that killed 20 people, injuring many more. Then, on 1 August 1980, 385 casualties resulted from an explosion in Bologna, linked to right-wing terrorists in the nation. Later on, Pope John Paul II suffered an unsuccessful assassination attempt in Rome in 1981, an action executed by the Grey Wolves, a Turkish terrorist group that was subsequently linked to Middle East terrorist organizations and Soviet intelligence. In October 1983, Italian right-wingers claimed 130 casualties by exploding another train bomb. And, in 1988, five members of the US Navy were killed by a Japanese Red Army attack in Naples.

France too has been exposed to a variety of threats. The Organisation Armee Secrete, or Secret Army Organisation (OAS), comprised of French nationals, army personnel, and foreign legion members was a group dedicated to keeping Algeria as a French colony. On 9 September 1961, the group attempted to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle in France. The attack launched by that group in January 1962 at the foreign ministry was more successful, claiming 14 casualties; many more joined that number in 12 further attacks between 1962 and 1965. Another organization, Action Directe, a Marxist-Leninist group affiliated with the International Revolutionary Movement Group (GARI), founded in the 1970's and devoted to the destruction of the existing government, attacked a Parisian restaurant in 1982, killing six civilians in the process. In January 1985, the head of French international arms sales was killed in Paris by the Red Army Faction of the same group, a splinter force with links to the Baader-Meinhof Gang. Then, in 1986, Action Directe struck again in its most famous action, killing the president of Renault in Paris.

In 1983, 63 casualties were claimed after an Armenian terrorist group planted a bomb at the Orly airport. 1986 initiated a 10-month long series of attacks all over France that were linked to the Armenian terrorists, in conjunction with Lebanese groups. Most recently, in 2000, a bomb planted in a French McDonald's by the Breton Revolutionary Army (ARB), a pro-independence group in Brittany, killed one woman.

Germany has also had to face a wide-ranging terrorist threat, starting with the 1970 formation of the notorious Baader-Meinhof Gang. That year the German leftist Ulrike Meinhof organized Andreas Baader's escape from a Berlin prison; the two then formed the terrorist gang that would launch a series of attacks throughout Germany in the next 30 years. Within a year, they would be knows as the Red Army Faction (RAF), a strategic renaming aimed at creating a sense of a much larger organization, as opposed to a small German splinter group. In May and June 1972, two separate attacks were carried out on US Army headquarters in Frankfurt and Heidelberg, claiming 17 casualties. Then, on 5 September 1975, the Baader-Meinhof Gang kidnapped Hans Martin Schleyer, a German businessman, subsequently killing him. An almost-successful assassination attempt on NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Haig was carried out in 1979. Though the organization has now ceased to exist, the precedent for terrorism in Germany has been set.

1. Terrorism in Spain. ETA

Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, or ETA, is a Basque paramilitary group that seeks to create an independent socialist state for the Basque people, separate from Spain and France, the countries in which Basque-populated areas currently lie. ETA is considered by Spain, France, the European Union and the United States to be a terrorist organization . The name Euskadi Ta Askatasuna is in the Basque language, and translates as "Basque Country and Liberty". ETA's motto is Bietan jarrai ("Keep up on both"). This refers to the two figures in the ETA symbol, the snake (symbolising secrecy and astuteness) wrapped around an axe (representing strength).

The organization was founded in 1959 and evolved rapidly from a group advocating traditional cultural ways to an armed resistance movement.

1.1 Context

ETA forms part of what is known as the Basque National Liberation Movement (Movimiento de Liberaciуn Nacional Vasco, MLNV in Spanish). This comprises several distinct organizations promoting a type of left Basque nationalism often referred to by the Basque-language term ezker abertzale or by the mixed Spanish and Basque izquierda abertzale. These include ETA, Batasuna, Euskal Herritarrok, Herri Batasuna, and the associated youth group Haika (formed by Jarrai and Gazteriak, and Segi), the union LAB, Gestoras pro Amnistнa and others.

ETA is believed to be financed principally by a so-called "revolutionary tax", paid by many businesses in the Basque Country and in the rest of Spain and enforced by the threat of assassination. They also kidnap people for ransom and have occasionally burgled or robbed storehouses of explosives. They have often maintained large caches of explosives, often in France rather than within the borders of Spain.

As of the end of 2004, ETA had killed 817 people, of which 339 were civilians, including children.

During the Franco era, ETA had considerable public support (even beyond the Basque populace), but Spain's transition to democracy and ETA's progressive radicalization have resulted in a steady loss of support, which became especially apparent at the time of their 1997 kidnapping and assassination of Miguel Бngel Blanco. Their loss of sympathizers has been reflected in an erosion of support for the political parties identified with the MLNV.

In recent years, ETA supporters have become a minority in the Basque region. A Euskobarуmetro poll (conducted by the Universidad del Paнs Vasco) in the Basque Country in May 2004, found that a significant number of Basques supported some or all of ETA's goals (33% favored Basque independence, 31% federalism, 32% autonomy, 2% centralism. However, few supported their violent methods (87% agreed that "today in Euskadi it is possible to defend all political aspirations and objectives without the necessity of resorting to violence")

The poll did not cover Navarre or the Basque areas of France, where Basque nationalism is weaker.

1.2 Goals

ETA's focus has been on two demands:

That an independent socialist government be created in Basque-inhabited areas of Spain and France (Euskal Herria). (In Spain, these are known collectively as the Basque Country and include both the Comunidad Autуnoma Vasca ("Autonomous Basque Community") — consisting of the provinces of Vizcaya (Bizkaia), Guipъzcoa (Gipuzkoa), Бlava (Araba) — and province of Navarre (Nafarroa), which, alone, constitutes the Comunidad Foral de Navarra (Navarese Community under fueros). The Basque-inhabited areas in France are known collectively as the French Basque Country and include Lower Navarre, Labourd (Lapurdi) and Soule (Zuberoa), all located in southwestern France in the dйpartement of Pyrйnйes-Atlantiques)

That imprisoned ETA members currently awaiting trial or serving prison sentences in Spain be released.

During the 1980s, the goals of the organisation started to shift. Four decades after the creation of ETA, the idea of creating a Socialist state in the Basque Country had begun to seem utopian and impractical, and ETA moved to a more pragmatic stance. This was reflected in the 1995 manifesto "Democratic Alternative", which offered the cessation of all armed ETA activity if the Spanish-government would recognize the Basque people as having sovereignty over Basque territory and the right to self-determination. Self-determination would be achieved through a referendum on whether to remain a part of Spain.

The organization has adopted other tactical causes such as fighting against:

-Alleged drug traffickers as corruptors of Basque youth and police collaborators

-The nuclear power plant project at Lemoiz

-The Leizaran highway

1.3 Structure

ETA is organized into distinct talde ("groups"), whose objective is to conduct terrorist operations in a specific geographic zone; collectively, they are coordinated by the cъpula militar ("military cupola"). In addition, they maintain safe houses and zulo (caches of arms or explosives; the Basque word zulo literally means "hole."

Among its members, ETA distinguishes between legalak, those members who do not have police files, liberados, exiled to France, and quemados, freed after having been imprisoned.

The internal organ of ETA is Zutik ("Standing").

1.4 Tactics

ETA's tactics of intimidation include:

-Assassination and murder, especially by car bombs or a gunshot to the nape of the neck.

-Anonymous threats, often delivered in the Basque Country by placards or graffiti, and which have forced many people into hiding; an example was the harassment of Juan Marнa Atutxa, one-time head of the department of justice for the Basque Country.

-The so-called "revolutionary tax."

-Kidnapping (often as a punishment for failing to pay the "revolutionary tax").

ETA operates mainly in Spain, particularly in the Basque Country, Navarre, and (to a lesser degree) Madrid, Barcelona, and the tourist areas of the Mediterranean coast of Spain. ETA has generally focused on so-called "military targets" (in which definition it has included police and politicians), but in recent years it has also sometimes targeted civilians.

ETA victims have included, among others:

-Luis Carrero Blanco, president of the government under Franco (1973)

-Members of the army and the security forces of the Spanish state, including Guardia Civil, Policнa Nacional, and police of the autonomous regions, such as the Ertzaintza (Basque police) or mossos d'esquadra (the police force of Catalonia).

-Parlamentarians, members of city councils, sympathizers and partisans of other parties, including the socialist PSOE (such as Fernando Buesa, killed February 22, 2000 in Vitoria and Ernest Lluch shot through the neck November 21, 2000 in Barcelona), the conservative Partido Popular (such as Miguel Бngel Blanco and Gregorio Ordусez) or even conservative Basque nationalists such as (Navarrese fuerista Tomбs Caballero, assassinated in 1998).

-Judges and lawyers

-Businessmen, such as Javier Ybarra.

-Functionaries of the prison and judicial systems.

-Philosophers and intellectuals.

-University professors, such as Francisco Tomбs y Valiente, killed in 1996.

-Journalists, such as Josй Luis Lуpez de la Calle, killed in May 2000.

-Members of certain religious and social groups.

-Foreign tourists in Spain.

Before bombings, ETA members often make a telephone call so that people can be evacuated, although these calls have sometimes given incorrect information, leading to increased casualties.

A police file, dating from 1996, indicated that ETA needs about 15 million pesetas (about 90,000 Euros) daily in order to finance its operations. Although ETA used robbery as a means of financing in its early days, it has since been accused both of arms trafficking and of benefiting economically from its political counterpart Batasuna. The two most important methods that the organization has used to obtain finances are kidnapping and extortion, euphemistically known as "revolutionary taxes." Other similar organizations such as FARC have also used this tactic. In 2002 the judge Baltasar Garzуn seized the herriko tabernas (people's taverns) which were reportedly collecting these "revolutionary taxes".

ETA is known to have had contacts with the Irish Republican Army; the two groups have both, at times, characterized their struggles as parallel. It has also had links with other militant left-wing movements in Europe and in other places throughout the world. Because of its allegiance to Marxist ideas, ETA has in the past been sponsored by communist regimes such as Cuba, as well as by Libya and Lebanon. Some of its members have found political asylum in Mexico and Venezuela.

1.5 Political issues

ETA's political wing is Batasuna, formerly known as Euskal Herritarrok and "Herri Batasuna", which generally receives about 10% of the vote in the Basque areas of Spain.

Batasuna's political status has been a very controversial issue. The Spanish Cortes (parliament) began the process of declaring the party illegal in August 2002, a move which was strongly disputed by many who felt that it was too draconian. Judge Baltasar Garzуn suspended the activities of Batasuna in a parallel trial, investigating the relationship between Batasuna and ETA, and its headquarters were shut down by police. The Supreme Court of Spain finally declared Batasuna illegal on March 18, 2003. The court considered proven that Batasuna had several links with ETA and that it was, in fact, part of ETA. Batasuna was listed as a terrorist organization by the United States in May 2003 and by all EU countries in June 2003.

In Spain, all Members of Parliament not belonging to Batasuna or any of the independentist political parties are required to carry a permanent escort lest they should be attacked by ETA. This also extends to all Basque city councilors of non-Basque-Nationalist parties and several of the Basque Nationalist officials.

1.6 History

During Franco's dictatorship

ETA was founded by young nationalists, initially affiliated with the PNV. Started in 1953 as a student discussion group at the University of Deusto in Bilbao, an offshoot of the PNV's youth group EGI, it was originally called EKIN, from the Basque-language verb meaning "to act"; the name had the meaning "get busy".

On July 31, 1959 it reconstituted itself as ETA. Their split from the PNV was apparently because they considered the PNV too moderate in its opposition to Franco's dictatorship. They disagreed with the PNV's rejection of violent tactics and advocated a Basque resistance movement utilizing direct action. This was an era of wars of national liberation such as the anti-colonial war in Algeria.

In their platform, formed at their first assembly in Bayonne, France in 1962, ETA called for "historical regenerationism", considering Basque history as a process of construction of a nation. They declared that Basque nationality is defined by the Basque language, Euskara; this was in contrast to the PNV's definition of Basque nationality in terms of ethnicity. In contrast with the explicit Catholicism of the PNV, ETA defined itself as "aconfessional" (religiously pluralistic), rejecting the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, although using Catholic doctrine to elaborate its social program. They called for socialism and for "independence for Euskadi, compatible with European federalism".

In 1965, ETA adopted a Marxist-Leninist position; its precise political line has varied with time, although they have always advocated some type of socialism.

In its early years, ETA's activity seems to have consisted mostly of theorizing and of protesting by destroying infrastructure and Spanish symbols and by hanging forbidden Basque flags.

It is not possible to say when ETA first began a policy of assassination, nor is it clear who committed the first assassinations identified with ETA. There are sources that say the first was the June 27, 1960 death of a 22-month-old child, Begoсa Urroz Ibarrola, who died in a bombing in San Sebastiбn; other sources single out a failed 1961 attempt to derail a train carrying war veterans; others point to the unpremeditated June 7, 1968 killing of a guardia civil, Josй Pardines Arcay by ETA member Xabi Etxebarrieta: the policeman had halted Etxebarrieta's car for a road check. Etxebarrieta was soon killed by the Spanish police, leading to retaliation in the form of the first ETA assassination with major repercussions, was that of Melitуn Manzanas, chief of the secret police in San Sebastiбn and a suspected torturer. In 1970, several members of ETA were condemned to death in the Proceso de Burgos ("Trial of Burgos"), but international pressure resulted in commutation of the sentences, which, however, had by that time already been applied to some other members of ETA. The most consequential assassination performed by ETA during Franco's dictatorship was the December 1973 assassination by bomb in Madrid of admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, Franco's chosen successor and president of the government (a position roughly equivalent to being a prime minister). This killing, committed as a reprisal for the execution of Basque independentistas, was widely applauded by the Spanish opposition in exile.

During the transition

After Franco's death, during Spain's transition to democracy ETA split into two separate organizations: the majority became ETA political-military or ETA(pm), the minority ETA military or ETA(m). ETA(pm) accepted the Spanish government's offer of amnesty to all ETA prisoners, even those who had committed violent crimes; abandoned the policy of violence; and integrated into the political party Euskadiko Ezkerra ("Left of the Basque Country"), which years later split. One faction retained the name Euskadiko Ezkerra for some years, before merging into the Partido Socialista de Euskadi (PSE), the Basque affiliate of the national PSOE); the other became Euskal Ezkerra (EuE, "Basque Left") and then merged into Eusko Alkartasuna. Some of the former ETA members (like Mario Onaindнa, Jon Juaristi, Joseba Pagazaurtundua) evolved to non-nationalist leftism or even Spanish nationalism, thus becoming targets or victims for ETA.

Meanwhile, ETA(m) (which, again, became known simply as ETA) adopted even more radical and violent positions. The years 1978–80 were to prove ETA's most deadly, with 68, 76, and 91 fatalities, respectively. (Martinez-Herrera 2002)

During the Franco era, ETA was able to take advantage of toleration by the French government, which allowed its members to move freely through French territory, believing that in this manner they were contributing to the end of Franco's regime. There is much controversy over the degree to which this policy of "sanctuary" continued even after the transition to democracy, but it is generally agreed that currently the French authorities collaborate closely with the Spanish government against ETA.

Under democracy

ETA performed their first car bomb assassination in Madrid in September 1985, resulting in one death and 16 injuries; another bomb in July 1986 killed 12 members of the Guardia Civil and injured 50; on July 19, 1987 the Hipercor bombing was an attack in a shopping center in Barcelona, killing 21 and injuring 45; in the last case, several entire families were killed. ETA claimed in a communique that they had given advance warning of the Hipercor bomb, but that the police had declined to evacuate the area.

In a "dirty war" against ETA, Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberaciуn (GAL, "Antiterrorist Liberation Groups"), a government-sponsored and supposedly counter-terrorist organization active 1986–87 (and possibly later) committed assassinations, kidnappings and torture, not only of ETA members but of civilians, some of whom turned out to have nothing to do with ETA. In 1997 a Spanish court convicted and imprisoned several individuals involved in GAL, not only footsoldiers but politicians up to the highest levels of government, including a minister of the interior. No major cases of foul play on part of the Spanish government after 1987 have been proven in court, although ETA supporters routinely claim human rights violations and torture by security forces, and international human rights organizations have backed some of these claims.

In 1986 Gesto por la Paz (known in English as Association for Peace in the Basque Country) was founded; they began to convene silent demonstrations in communities throughout the Basque Country the day after any violent killing, whether by ETA or by GAL. These were the first systematic demonstrations in the Basque Country against terrorist violence. Also in 1986, in Ordizia, ETA assassinated Marнa Dolores Katarain, known as "Yoyes", the former director of ETA who had abandoned armed struggle and rejoined civil society: they accused her of "desertion".

January 12, 1988 all Basque political parties except ETA-affiliated Herri Batasuna signed the Ajuria-Enea pact with the intent of ending ETA's violence. Weeks later on January 28, ETA announced a 60-day "ceasefire", later prolonged several times. A negotiation in Algeria known as the Mesa de Argel ("Algiers Table") was attempted between ETA (represented by Eugenio Etxebeste, "Antxon") and the then-current PSOE government of Spain, but no successful conclusion was reached, and ETA eventually resumed the use of violence.

During this period, the Spanish government had a policy referred to as "reinsertion", under which imprisoned ETA members who the government believed had genuinely abandoned violent intent could be freed and allowed to rejoin society. Claiming a need to prevent ETA from coercively impeding this reinsertion, the PSOE government decided that imprisoned ETA members, who previously had all been imprisoned within the Basque Country, would instead be dispersed to prisons throughout Spain, some as far from their families as in the Salto del Negro prison in the Canary Islands. France has taken a similar approach. In the event, the only clear effect of this policy was to incite social protest, especially from nationalists, over the supposed illegality of the policy itself. Much of the protest against this policy runs under the slogan "Euskal presoak - Euskal Herrira" (Basque prisoners to the Basque Country).

Another Spanish counter-terrorist law puts suspected terrorist cases under the specialized tribunal Audiencia Nacional in Madrid. Suspected terrorists are subject to a habeas corpus term longer than other suspects.

In 1992, ETA's three top leaders — military leader Francisco Mujika Garmendia ("Pakito"), political leader Josй Luis Alvarez Santacristina ("Txelis") and logistical leader Josй Marнa Arregi Erostarbe ("Fiti"), often referred to collectively as the "cupola" of ETA or as the Artapalo collective — were arrested in the French Basque town of Bidart, which led to changes in ETA's leadership and direction. After a two-month truce, ETA adopted even more radical positions. The principal consequence of the change appears to have been the creation of the "Y Groups", young people (generally minors) dedicated to so-called "kale borroka" — street struggle — and whose activities included burning buses, street lamps, benches, ATMs, garbage containers, etc. and throwing Molotov cocktails. The appearance of these groups was attributed by many to supposed weakness of ETA, which obligated them to resort to minors to maintain or augment their impact on society after arrests of leading militants, including the "cupola". ETA also began to menace leaders of other parties besides rival Basque nationalist parties. The existence of the "Y Groups" as an organized phenomenon has been contested by some supporters of Basque national liberation, who claim that this construction is merely a trumped-up excuse to give longer prison sentences to those convicted of street violence.

In 1995, the armed organization again launched a peace proposal. The so-called Democratic Alternative replaced the earlier KAS Alternative as a minimum proposal for the establishment of Euskal Herria. The Democratic Alternative offered the cessation of all armed ETA activity if the Spanish-government would recognize the Basque people as having sovereignty over Basque territory and the right to self-determination. The Spanish government ultimately rejected this peace offer.

Also in 1995 came a failed ETA car bombing attempt directed against Josй Marнa Aznar, a conservative politician who was leader of the then-opposition Partido Popular (PP) and was shortly after elected to the presidency of the government; their was also an abortive attempt in Majorca on the life of King Juan Carlos I. Still, the act with the largest social impact came the following year. July 10, 1997 PP activist Miguel Бngel Blanco was kidnapped in the Basque city of Ermua and his death threatened unless the Spanish government would meet ETA's demands. Six million people demonstrated to demand his liberation, with demonstrations occurring as much in the Basque regions as elsewhere in Spain. After three days, ETA carried through their threat, unleashing massive demonstrations reflecting the ETA action with the cries of "Assassins" and "Basques yes, ETA no". This response came to be known as the "Spirit of Ermua".

After the Good Friday Accord marked the beginning of the end of violent hostilities in Northern Ireland, and given that the Ajuria-Enea pact had failed to bring peace to the Basque Country, the Lizarra/Estella Pact brought together political parties, unions, and other Basque groups in hopes again of changing the political situation. Shortly after, September 18, 1998, ETA declared a unilateral truce or ceasefire, and began a process of dialogue with Spain's PP government. The dialogue continued for some time, but ETA resumed assassinations in 2000, accusing the government of being "inflexible" and of "not wanting dialogue". The communique that declared the end of the truce cited the failure of the process initiated in the Lizarra/Estella Pact to achieve political change as the reason for the return to violence. The Spanish government, from the highest levels, accused ETA of having declared a false truce in order to rearm. Later came acts of violence such as the November 6, 2001 car bomb in Madrid, which injured 65, and attacks on soccer stadiums and tourist destinations.

The September 11, 2001 attacks appeared to have dealt a hard blow to ETA, owing to the toughening of antiterrorist measures (such as the freezing of bank accounts), the increase in international police coordination, and the end of the toleration some countries had, up until then, extended to ETA. In addition, in 2002 the Basque nationalist youth movement Jarrai was outlawed and the law of parties was changed outlawing Herri Batasuna, the "political arm" of ETA (although even before the change in law, Batasuna had been largely paralyzed and under judicial investigation by judge Baltasar Garzуn).

With ever-increasing frequency, attempted ETA actions have been frustrated by Spanish security forces. On Christmas Eve 2003, in San Sebastiбn and in Hernani, National Police arrested two ETA members who had left dynamite in a railroad car prepared explode in Chamartнn Station in Madrid. On March 1, 2004, in a place between Alcalб de Henares and Madrid, a light truck with 536 kg of explosives was left to cause a massacre, but was prevented by the action of the Guardia Civil.

Recent events

On February 18, 2004, ETA publicly stated that a ceasefire only in Catalonia had been in effect since January 1, based on "a desire to unite the ties between the Basque and Catalan peoples." Some claimed that this ceasefire was based on a secret pact with Josep-Lluнs Carod-Rovira, leader of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC, "Republican Left of Catalonia"). Carod-Rovira, despite admitting to having met with ETA in France in December denied having reached any accord, saying that the meeting was an attempt to drive ETA away from violence, and ended with no results. This, during an electoral campaign, became a scandal, and endangered the recent tripartite Catalan government, formed by ERC (ERC), Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds-Esquerra Unida i Alternativa (ICV-EUiA) and the Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya (PSC). The opposition then accused Aznar of being behind the leak to the media of the intelligence report detailing the meeting and Aznar refused to clarify whether he knew about this meeting before the leaking. Aznar was also questioned as to why the ETA members who attended that meeting were not detained.

Also in 2004, ETA was initially suspected of being the authors of a series of ten bombings only a few days before the national elections, which targeted three locations along Madrid's suburban train lines on the morning of March 11, 2004, killing 192 civilians (see 11 March 2004 Madrid attacks). This theory was officially endorsed by Josй Marнa Aznar's government, despite the police quickly gathering evidence pointing towards Islamic terrorism. Many Spanish citizens took this rush to judgment as an offence towards the victims of the attacks and towards the Spanish people; this was generally seen as a decisive factor in the electoral result which overturned Aznar's government (see Spanish legislative election, 2004). The authorship of this attack, the largest European terror incident in terms of lives lost since the 1988 Pan Am flight 103 flight bombing, has been finally ascribed to Islamist terrorists by the Spanish police.

On September 27, 2004, ETA militants sent a videotape to Gara, a Basque newspaper based in Guipъzcoa, in which the militants stated that ETA would continue to fight for Basque self-determination and that ETA would "respond with arms at the ready to those who deny us through the force of arms." This videotape represented ETA's first major public statement since the March 11 attacks. During the weekend preceding the videotape release, the group claimed responsibility for a series of bombings that hampered electricity transmission between France and Spain.

On October 3, 2004, French police launched an operation against ETA's logistical apparatus, making 21 arrests, among them the couple who functioned as top ETA leaders, Mikel Albizu Iriarte ("Mikel Antza") and Soledad Iparragirre ("Anboto"). They found four zulos (caches) with a vast quantity of armaments, much greater than had been estimated to be at ETA's disposal; they also managed to turn up information about ETA's printing an internal newsletter, but nothing leading to any major bank account or other horde of money. The operation was considered one of the most successful since Bidart in 1992. As of October 2004, it appears that these measures will result in ETA leadership moving into different hands; it is too soon to evaluate the consequences. Spain has solicited the extradition of Mikel Antza y Amboto via a Euroorden.

On December 4, 2004, Five minor bombs exploded in Madrid. An ETA spokesman said that ETA was behind this, and local police authorities found that all the bombs was set to go off 06:30pm local time.

On December 6, 2004, Spanish Constitution Day, ETA detonated seven bombs in bars, cafes and town squares across Spain.

On December 12, 2004, the Real Madrid Santiago Bernabйu football Stadium was evacuated due to a phoned-in bomb threat in name of ETA. The bomb—expected to blow up at 9:00 p.m.—didn't explode, and the 69,000 spectators of the match under way at the time of the call were safely evacuated by the Spanish Police at 8:45 p.m.

On February 8, 2005, a car bomb, which carried 30 Kg of cloratite, exploded in Madrid outside a convention center. At least 43 people were injured and no one killed.

On February 27, 2005, a small bomb exploded at a resort hotel in Villajoyosa after a telephonic warning. The building was evacuated and no one was injured. The explosion damaged only a small house near the residence's swimming pool.

1.7 Terrorism in Northern Ireland. IRA

1.7.1 The Irish Problem

The Troubles is a generic term used to describe a period of sporadic communal violence involving paramilitary organisations, the police, the British Army and others in Northern Ireland from the late 1960s until the mid-1990s. (Another term, common among British commentators is the "Irish Problem", though this is seen as pejorative by many Irish people as it seems to absolve Britain of any blame for the conflict and portray it as a neutral party.) It could also be described as a many-sided conflict, a guerrilla war or even a civil war.

The origins of the Troubles are complex. What is clear is that its origins lie in the century long debate over whether Ireland, or part of Ireland, should be part of the United Kingdom. In 1920, after widespread political violence, the Government of Ireland Act partitioned the island of Ireland into two separate states, one of which was Northern Ireland. According to the majority of unionists, Northern Ireland, which remained a self governing region of the United Kingdom, was governed in accordance with "democratic" principles, the rule of law and in accordance with the will of a majority within its borders to remain part of the United Kingdom. Nationalists however saw the partition of Ireland as an illegal and immoral division of the island of Ireland against their will, and argued that the Northern Ireland state was neither legitimate nor democratic, but created with a deliberately designed unionist majority. Each side had their own soundbites to describe their perspective. Unionist Prime Minister of Northern Ireland Lord Brookborough talked of a "Protestant state for a Protestant people", while a later Republic of Ireland taoiseach (prime minister) Charles Haughey called Northern Ireland a "a failed political entity".

The 'four communities'

Four overlapping segments exist within Northern Ireland. The majority of the unionist community are generally called Unionists and commit to supporting political parties like the Ulster Unionist Party (known for part of the 1970s and 1980s as the Official Unionist Party) or the more militant protestant Democratic Unionist Party. The larger segment of the nationalist catholic community are generally called simply Nationalist and supported at various times the Nationalist Party and since the 1970s the Social Democratic and Labour Party. Both communities had smaller, more radical elements who supported at various times what one IRA strategist called the "armalite and the ballot box" (ie, a combination of electoral politics and violence when necessary). More radical elements within the unionist community came to be called Loyalists while radical nationalists came to be described as Republicans. Each of the radical groups produced their own paramilitary organisations like the Provisional IRA, Official IRA, Continuity IRA, Real IRA, Irish National Liberation Army etc (all republican), and the Ulster Defence Association, Ulster Freedom Fighters, Red Hand Commandos etc (loyalist). Most such groups had their own political organisations, while some of the groups had overlapping memberships. While the various political movements claimed to speak on behalf of the 'majority of the people', electoral votes throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s returned majorities for Nationalist and Unionist parties at the expense of Republican and Loyalist ones, though the latter two did achieve occasional successes, notably the election of MPs in the constituencies of West Belfast and Fermanagh & South Tyrone. At its electoral highpoint during the troubles, in the 1981 Republic of Ireland general election, it won two seats out of one hundred and sixty six in parliament. Sinn Fйin's major electoral successes only followed the ceasefire of the IRA in the 1990s.

Religion and class

For the most part a clear divide exists in terms of religion and some times a left-right divide between the various communities. Most though not all protestants are unionists, while most though not all catholics are nationalists. While the mainstream organisations representing Nationalists and Unionists tended to be quite conservative, more politically and religious radical groups associated with Republicans and Loyalists, with the leading republican organisation in the 1960s, the Official IRA and its party, Sinn Fйin adopting a marxist perspective of the 'Irish problem', defining it in terms of "class struggle", they arguing for the creation of an 'Irish socialist republic'. Loyalists in the 1970s even advocated forms of an "independent ulster" which they compared to the apartheid-style regimes of Rhodesia and South Africa, in which one community's dominance could be ensured.

Except for Unionists, all other segments argued that the Northern Ireland of the 1960s needed change. Moderate nationalists in the Civil Rights movement, under figures like John Hume, Gerry Fitt and Austin Currie advocated an end to the gerrymandering of local government wards to ensure Protestant victories on minority votes, and the end to discrimination over access to council housing. They pressed for wide reforms, whereas Unionists saw "concessions" as part of a process whereby nationalists would bring down Northern Ireland and force Irish unity. Republicans adopted a more violent approach to force more radical change, while Loyalists stepped up their violence to oppose it.

The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), the police force in Northern Ireland, was largely though not totally Protestant for a complex series of reasons. Catholics did not join in the numbers expected by the British when the force was first created. Those that did reported a 'hostile to Catholics' working environment, in which Unionist and Protestant organisations like the Orange Order and the Ulster Unionist Party had undue influence. Those Catholics who did join were often targeted by the various IRAs. Yet some Catholic police officers did play a part in the constabulary. One served as Chief Constable, while the leader of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party, Mark Durkan is himself the son of a Catholic RUC man.

The lack of Catholic officers was augmented by the role of constabulary played in policing, which involved as is generally the case with policing the maintenance of the status quo. The result was that critics of the unionist and loyalist communities saw the police force as the "unionist police force for a unionist state". Unlike its sister police force in the South, An Garda Sнochбna, which was mainly composed of ex-IRA men, the RUC failed to establish cross community trust, with each community blaming the other or the RUC for failings in policing.

A policing review, part of the Good Friday Agreement, has led to some reforms of policing, including more rigorous accountability, measures to increase the number of Catholic officers, and the renaming of the RUC to the Police Service of Northern Ireland to avoid using the word "Royal".


There are several paramilitary groups which claim or have claimed the title Irish Republican Army (IRA) and advocate a unitary Irish state with no ties to the United Kingdom. All claim descent from the original "Irish Republican Army", the "army" of the Irish Republic declared by Dбil Йireann in 1919. Most Irish people dispute the claims of more recently created organizations that insist that they are the only legitimate descendants of the original IRA, often referred to as the "Old IRA".

-the Old IRA

-The Official IRA, the remainder of the IRA after the Provisional IRA seceded in 1969, now apparently inactive in the military sense.

-The Provisional IRA (PIRA), founded in 1969 and best known for paramilitary campaigns during the 1970s-1990s

-The 'Real' IRA, a 1990s breakaway from the PIRA

-The Continuity IRA, another 1990s breakaway from the PIRA

a) The Old IRA

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) has its roots in Ireland's struggle for independence from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in the early twentieth century. It is important to differentiate between what is termed the 'Old IRA' and the 'Official IRA' from the Provisional IRA (PIRA), a splinter-group which formed in the late 1960s in the wake of institutionalized anti-Catholic discrimination, riots and murders (mainly in Belfast and Derry).

The Irish Republican Army first emerged as the army of the Irish Republic that had been declared at the Easter Rising of 1916 and affirmed by the First Dail in January 1919. It was descended from the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizens Army which had existed in the second decade of the twentieth century and which had played a part in the Easter Rising.

The Irish Defence Forces, the Official and Provisional IRA and the 'Continuity' and 'Real IRA' all lay claim to the title Уglaigh na hЙireann (in the Irish language, Irish Volunteers.) Michael Collins took an active role in reorganizing the IRA. Its formation and its subsequent development were inextricably intertwined and interrelated with the subsequent political history of Ireland and Northern Ireland and any consideration of the IRA therefore needs to be set firmly in context.

In 1914 the long-running Irish nationalist demand for home rule had finally been conceded by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland government, subject to two provisos: that it would not come into being until the end of the First World War, and that the six northern counties of Ireland were to be temporarily excluded from the control of a home rule parliament in Dublin. The latter demand had resulted from a campaign of physical disobedience by northern unionists, producing a fear in Britain that the concession of home rule would lead to a civil war between nationalists and unionists.

For a minority of nationalists, the home rule conceded was judged to be too little, too late. In the Easter Rising of 1916, these nationalists staged a rebellion against British rule in Dublin and in some other isolated areas. Weapons had been supplied by Germany, under the auspices of a leading human rights campaigner, Sir Roger Casement. However the plot had been discovered and the weapons were lost when the ship carrying them was scuttled rather than allowed to be captured.

The rebellion was largely centered on Dublin. The leaders seized the Dublin General Post Office (GPO), raising a green flag bearing the legend 'Irish Republic', and proclaiming independence for Ireland. Though Republican history often claimed that the Rising and its leaders had public support, in reality there were widespread calls for the execution of the ringleaders, coming from the major Irish nationalist daily newspaper, the 'Irish Independent' and local authorities. Dubliners not only cooperated with the British troops sent to quell the uprising, but undermined the Republicans as well. Many people spat and threw stones at them as they were marched towards the transport ships that would take them to the Welsh internment camps.

However, public opinion gradually shifted, initially over the summary executions of 16 senior leaders--some of whom, such as James Connolly, were too ill to stand--and people thought complicit in the rebellion. As one observer described, "the drawn out process of executing the leaders of the rising... it was like watching blood seep from behind a closed door." Opinion shifted even more in favor of the Republicans in 1917-18 with the Conscription Crisis, when Britain tried to impose conscription on Ireland to bolster its flagging war effort.

Sinn Fйin, commonly known as the IRA's political arm, was widely credited with orchestrating the Easter rising, although the group was advocating less-than-full independence at the time. The party's then-leader, Arthur Griffith, was campaigning for a dual monarchy with Britain, a return to the status quo of the so-called 'Constitution of 1782', forged in Grattan's Parliament. The Republican survivors, under Eamon de Valera, infiltrated and took over Sinn Fйin, leading to a crisis of goals in 1917.

In a compromise agreed to at its Бrd Fheis (party conference) Sinn Fйin agreed to initially campaign for a republic. Having established one, it would let the electorate decide on whether to have a monarchy or republic; however, if they chose a monarchy, no member of the British Saxe-Coburg-Gotha/Windsor Royal Family was to be eligible for the Irish throne.

From 1916 to 1918, the two dominant nationalist movements, Sнnn Fйin and the Irish Parliamentary Party fought a tough series of battles in by-elections. Neither won a decisive victory; however, the Conscription Crisis tipped the balance in favor of Sinn Fйin. The party went on to win a clear majority of seats in the 1918 general election and most were uncontested.

Sinn Fйin MPs elected in 1918 chose not to take their seats in Westminster but instead set up an independent 'Assembly of Ireland', or 'Dбil Йireann', in Gaelic. On January 21st, 1919, this new, unofficial parliament assembled in the Mansion House in Dublin. As its first acts, the Dбil elected a prime minister (Priomh Aire), Cathal Brugha, and a inaugurated a ministry called the Aireacht).

The first shots in the Irish War of Independence were fired in Soloheadbeg, Tipperary on the 21st of January 1919 by Sean Treacy. Two RIC constables (James McDonnell and Patrick O'Connell) were killed while the South Tipperary IRA volunteer unit was attempting to seize a quantity of gelignite. Technically, the men involved were considered to be in a serious breach of IRA discipline and were liable to be court-martialed, but it was considered more politically expedient to hold them up as examples of a rejuvenated militarism. The conflict soon escalated into guerrilla warfare by what were then known as the Flying Columns in remote areas. Attacks on particularly remote Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) barracks continued throughout 1919 and 1920, forcing the police to consolidate defensively in the larger towns, effectively placing large areas of the countryside in the hands of the Republicans.

In response, the British sent hundreds of World War I veterans to assist the RIC. The veterans reportedly wore a combination of black police uniforms and tan army uniforms, which, according to one etymology, inspired the nickname 'Black and Tans'. The brutality of the 'Black and Tans' is now legendary, although the most excessive repression attributed to the Crown's forces was often the fault of the Auxiliary Division of the Constabulary.

The IRA was also accused of excesses; in particular against the property of Loyalists in the Munster area. Both Dбil Йireann (the Irish Parliament) and Sinn Fйin were proscribed by the British government.

David Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister at the time, found himself under increasing political pressure to try to salvage something from the situation. Eamon de Valera refused to attend talks, realizing that compromise was inevitable, but that movements in that direction would hurt his image. An unexpected olive branch came from King George V, who, supported by South African statesman General Jan Smuts1, managed to get the British government to accept a radical re-draft of his proposed speech to the Northern Ireland parliament, meeting in Belfast City Hall in June 1921. The King had often protested about the methods employed by Crown forces to Lloyd George.

The speech, which called for reconciliation on all sides, changed the mood and enabled the British and Irish Republican governments to agree a truce. Negotiations on an Anglo-Irish Treaty took place in late 1921 in London. The Irish delegation was led by Arthur Griffith, as de Valera--now 'President of the Republic'--insisted that as head of state he could not attend, as King George was not leading the British delegation.

Under the Government of Ireland Act 1920, Ireland was partitioned, creating Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland. Under the terms of the Anglo-Irish agreement of 6 December 1921, which ended the war (1919-1921), Northern Ireland was given the option of withdrawing from the new state, the Irish Free State, and remaining part of the United Kingdom. The Northern Ireland parliament chose to do so. A Boundary Commission was then set up to review the border.

Irish leaders expected that it would so reduce Northern Ireland's size as to make it economically unviable. Contrary to myth, partition was not the key breaking point between pro and anti-Treaty campaigners; all sides expected the Boundary Commission to 'deliver' Northern Ireland.

The actual split was over symbolic issues: could the Irish Republic be dissolved? Could Irish politicians take the Oath of Allegiance called for in the Anglo-Irish Treaty? Anti-treaty republicans under de Valera answered both questions in the negative. They withdrew from the Dбil Йireann, which had narrowly approved the Treaty.

Many of the leading members of the Old IRA, the army of the Republic, joined the new national army of the Irish Free State, while others rejoined civilian life. A small minority, continuing to claim the name 'IRA', waged a bloody civil war against the new Irish Free State civil administration, led by W.T. Cosgrave. This war killed off both well-known Republican leaders, such as Michael Collins, and the Old IRA itself, setting off a chain of splits that would occur regularly over the remainder of the 20th century.

b) The Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) is a paramilitary group which aimed, through armed struggle, to achieve three goals:

-British withdrawal from Ireland,

-the political unification of Ireland through the merging of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and

-the creation of an all-Ireland socialist republic.

They are also known as the 'Provos' and the Irish Republican Army. It is most commonly referred to simply as the IRA, but several groups claim this title. In the Irish language they style themselves Уglaigh na hЙireann ("Volunteers of Ireland"), the same title used by the regular Irish Defence Forces.

The IRA's campaign against those perceived as standing in the way of its desired aims (which included the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the British Army, the Unionist establishment and, on occasion, the police and army in the Republic of Ireland) played a central role in the Troubles in Northern Ireland. It has been officially on ceasefire since 1997.


The Provisional IRA was initially a splinter group of the 'Official' IRA, which claimed descent from the Old IRA: the guerrilla army of the 1919-1922 Irish Republic. The Official IRA moved to a Marxist analysis of Irish partition, eventually leading to its refusal to defend Catholic communities from the attacks of Protestant mobs for fear of being seen as sectarian, in the mid 1960s. The PIRA held to a more pragmatic republican analysis and became larger and more successful, eventually overshadowing the original group. The name, the "Provisional" IRA arose when those who were unhappy with the IRA's Army Council formed a "Provisional Army Council" of their own, echoing in turn the "Provisional Government" proclaimed during the Easter Rising of 1916.

The split in the armed wing of the republican movement was mirrored in the separation of the republican political wing. Supporters of the PIRA split from 'Official' Sinn Fйin to form Provisional Sinn Fйin. Provisional Sinn Fйin was later known simply as Sinn Fйin while 'Official' Sinn Fйin eventually became the Workers' Party, later the Democratic Left. This group eventually merged with the Irish Labour Party, after serving in government with them.

Strength and support

The PIRA has several hundred members, as well as tens of thousands of civilian sympathisers on the island of Ireland, mostly in Ulster. However, the movement's appeal was hurt badly by more notorious PIRA bombings widely perceived as 'atrocities', such as the killing of civilians attending a Remembrance Day ceremony at the cenotaph in Enniskillen in 1987, and the killing of two children at Warrington, which led to tens of thousands of people descending on O'Connell Street in Dublin to call for an end to the PIRA's campaign of violence. In the 1990's the IRA moved to attacking economic targets, such as the Baltic Exchange and Canary Wharf, the latter of which killed two civilians.

In recent times the movement's strength has been weakened by operatives leaving the organisation to join hardline splinter groups such as the Continuity IRA and the Real IRA. If the PIRA has enjoyed mass support this has not, historically, been reflected in support for its associated political party, Sinn Fйin, which, until recently, did not receive the support of more than a minority of nationalists in Northern Ireland, or of voters in general in the Republic of Ireland. Sinn Fein now has 24 members of the Northern Ireland Assembly (out of 108), 4 Northern Ireland MPs (out of 18) and 5 TDs (members of the parliament of the Republic of Ireland, out of 166). This is widely perceived as support for the IRA ceasefire and some commentators maintain this support would decrease if the IRA returned to violence.

In the past, the PIRA has received funds and arms from sympathisers in the United States, notably from the Noraid (Irish Northern Aid) organisation. The PIRA has also, on occasion, received assistance from foreign governments and paramilitary groups, including considerable training and arms from Libya and assistance from the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO). U.S. support has been weakened by the so-called "War against Terrorism", the events of the 11th September 2001 and the discovery of three men (two known members of the IRA and the Sinn Fein representative in Cuba) in Colombia, allegedly training Colombian FARC guerrillas. These men were eventually acquitted of aiding FARC, and convicted solely on the lesser charge of possessing false passports, however the prosecution appealed the acquittal and the men have now been convicted and sentenced to long jail terms. The three men disappeared while on bail and their whereabouts are still not known. The case was controversial for several reasons, including the heavy reliance on the testimony of a former FARC member and dubious forensic evidence. There was also considerable political pressure from the right-wing government of Alvaro Uribe, members of which had called for a guilty verdict. The organisation has also been accused of raising funds through smuggling, racketeering and bank robberies.

In February 2005 prominent PIRA members were denounced by relatives of Robert McCartney leading to Gerry Adams for the first time calling for the Catholic Community in Northern Ireland to give evidence against the PIRA.

The Belfast Agreement

The PIRA cease-fire in 1997 formed part of a process that led to the 1998 Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. The Agreement has among its aims that all extra-legal paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland cease their activities and disarm by May 2000.

Calls from Sinn Fйin have lead the IRA to commence disarming in a process that has been overviewed by General John de Chastelain's decommissioning body in October, 2001. However, following the collapse of the Stormont power-sharing government in 2002, which was partly triggered by allegations that republican spies were operating within Parliament Buildings and the Civil Service, the PIRA temporarily broke contact with General de Chastelain. It is expected that, if and when power-sharing resumes, the PIRA disarmament process will begin again, though it is already considered by some to be behind schedule. Increasing numbers of people, from the Ulster Unionists under David Trimble and the Social Democratic and Labour Party under Mark Durkan to the Irish Government under Bertie Ahern and the mainstream Irish media, have begun demanding not merely decommissioning but the wholesale disbandment of the PIRA.

In December, 2004, attempts to persuade the PIRA to disarm entirely collapsed when the DUP, under Ian Paisley, insisted on photographic evidence. The PIRA stated that this was an attempt at humiliation and so the attempts collapsed.

At the beginning of February 2005, the PIRA declared that it was withdrawing from the disarmament process.


The Provisional IRA's activities have included bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, 'punishment beatings' of civilians accused of criminal behaviour, robberies and extortion. Previous targets have included the British military, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and Loyalist militants – against all of whom PIRA gunmen and bombers fought a guerrilla war.

PIRA has also targeted British Government officials, Unionist politicians and certain civilians in both Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Many Protestant civilians perceived to have been assisting the British were killed in Northern Ireland, whilst many British civilians were killed during the IRA bombing campaign in England, which was often directed against civilian targets such as pubs, as well as targets of an economic significance.

One of their most famous victims was Lord Louis Mountbatten, killed on August 27, 1979, by a PIRA bomb placed in his boat.

Also many Catholic civilians have been killed by PIRA in Northern Ireland for alleged "collaboration" with the British security forces (i.e. the British army or the RUC). The IRA has also summarily "executed" or otherwise punished suspected drug dealers and other suspected criminals in the past, sometimes after kangaroo trials. IRA members suspected of being British or Irish government informers were also executed, often after interrogation and torture and a kangaroo trial.

Members of the Garda Sнochбna (the Republic of Ireland's police force) have also been killed; most notorious was the killing of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe, who was shot and killed after the commencement of the IRA ceasefire, while escorting a post office delivery. PIRA bombing campaigns have been conducted against rail and London Underground (subway) stations, pubs and shopping areas on the island of Great Britain, and a British military facility on Continental Europe.

It has recently been claimed that elements of the PIRA have been involved in a spate of bank robberies throughout the island of Ireland, allegedly to build up funds to 'pension off' PIRA members and so facilitate disbandment.

The PIRA has been officially on ceasefire since July 1997 (although hardline splinter groups such as the Continuity IRA and so-called Real IRA continue their campaigns). It previously observed a cease-fire from 1 September 1994 to February 1996, after the Downing Street Declaration, although this was ended when the British government refused to talk to Sinn Fein.

c) Sinn Fein

Sinn Fein used to be widely regarded as the political wing of the IRA, but today the party insists that the two organisations are completely separate.

A republican party devoted to establishing a united Ireland, Sinn Fein advocates strong cross-border bodies as a step towards achieving that goal and the maintenance of the Irish Republic's territorial claim to Northern Ireland.

It is a strong supporter of the Good Friday Agreement, but accuses unionists of undermining the deal in the months since it was signed.

The original Sinn Fein campaigned for an independent, united Ireland before and after the First World War. The current form of the party dates back to 1970 when Provisional Sinn Fein split away from Official Sinn Fein, which became the Workers' Party. This split mirrored the split in the IRA into Official and Provisional wings.

Since the early 1980s, Sinn Fein has slowly gained strength and political power. At the 1997 general election, it won 16% of the vote. Its two MPs, party president Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, have never sat at Westminster as they refuse to take the oath of allegiance to the Queen.

Sinn Fein has 18 seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly and two seats on the executive.

Sinn Fein was angered by the refusal of First Minister David Trimble to allow it to take up its executive seats until the IRA began to disarm, arguing that the Agreement gave it an automatic right to attend regardless of the IRA's actions.

In November 1999, however, Sinn Fein made a statement reaffirming its beliefs in decommissioning as an essential part of the peace process and in the IRA's commitment to a permanent peace. That statement - and similar declarations from the Ulster Unionists and the IRA - were seen as a breakthrough in the decommissioning deadlock.

Three months later, however, it became apparent that no decommissioning had taken place. Sinn Fein was angered by unionist pressure on the government and the suspension of the executive, arguing that this amounted to a unionist veto.

Sinn Fein welcomed the IRA's announcement in May 2000 that it was ready to put its weapons beyond use.

Latest Developments

When Sinn Fйin and the DUP became the largest parties of the two communities, it was clear that no deal could be made without the support of both parties. They nearly reached a deal in November 2004, but the DUP's insistence on photographic evidence of the decommissing, as had been demanded by Rev. Dr Ian Paisley, meant the failure of the arrangement. The robbery of Ј26.5 million from the Northern Bank in Belfast in December 2004, in which two staff members were forced to participate under threat that their families would be killed if they refused, further scuppered chances of a deal, as PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde blamed the IRA.

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