Spain votes tomorrow, Sunday, in national elections, and some sort of terrorist attack was bound to happen. It always does -- the only questions were which terrorists, and how big it would be?
On Friday afternoon, a masked gunman from the Basque separatist terrorists (ETA) shot to death a former alderman in the Basque province in northern Spain. The victim was Isaías Carrasco, a Socialist Party member and union activist in Mondragón, a city of 20,000.
Carrasco was 42. After high school, he worked in construction, then factory jobs, and was on his way to his current job staffing a highway toll booth when he was shot in front of his home. His wife and teenage daughter, who witnessed the attack, ran to help him. He died within an hour.
He was elected alderman in 2003, and like all Basque politicians, he was immediately assigned a bodyguard. ETA targets politicians at all levels of government. Bodyguards even opened the Carrasco family mail, checking for bombs, standard operating procedure. After he lost re-election last September, he decided he didn't need protection, though he continued to be active in the local party.
Earlier this year, ETA blew off a bomb at a courthouse in another Basque city, and police deactivated another bomb in a different city. In addition, ETA organized frequent acts of vandalism and street violence. There are places in Spain were few people dare to get involved in politics or even speak their mind in public.
ETA committed assassinations before elections in 1977, 1978, 1979, 1982, 1984, 1986, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, and 2000. Over the years, it has killed 800 people. In 2004, Al Qaeda terrorists blew up commuter trains in Madrid just before national elections, killing 198. Right now, police throughout Spain are on alert for more attacks. For more than a week, they have been erecting roadblocks and searching cars as they entered Madrid.
All political parties suspended their campaigns after the shooting, although the election will be held tomorrow as scheduled. Not surprisingly, considering the nasty tone of politics here, their statements condemning the assassination blamed their rivals as much as the terrorists for the attack.
You can read more about the shooting in this New York Times article. Notice in the photo that the police are wearing ski masks to hide their identity. That's because ETA also targets police. This CNN article provides more background for the election.
I hate terrorists.