October in History: The IRA, ETA, ‘Old terrorism’ & IED Use

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Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have long been in common use for the purposes of terrorism. The month of October marks two significant anniversaries in this regard – the 1994 eventual final ceasefire in Northern Ireland between the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the Northern Irish Loyalist forces and the British forces, as well as the final and permanent 2011 cessation of armed activity by the Basque militant group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) in Spain.

Both of these milestones marked an end to two decades-long prominent national-level separatist conflicts in Europe, also commonly referred to as notable examples of ‘old terrorism’ in academic literature. This article will take a look back at these two militant groups, specifically focusing on IEDs and their use as a part of the tactics of ‘old’ terrorism which utilizes violence with finite political goals in mind and commonly limits itself to a specific territory.

With ETA and the IRA having been the two major separatist terrorist groups in Europe active in the same era and utilizing heavily overlapping tactics, it comes as no surprise they were also known to maintain contact since the 1970s, including the exchange of arms as well as explosive training and knowledge. As such, it is thus fitting to jointly look back at their violent tactics involving IEDs use.

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