Thursday 21 December 2023

December 21, 1978: The Assassination of ETA Commander "Argala"

"We don't like armed struggle. Armed struggle is nasty, it is hard and as a result of it you go to jail, into exile, be tortured and as a result you can die. You see one forced to kill. It hardens the person, hurts him, but armed struggle is essential to advance".

-  José Miguel Beñaran Ordeñana AKA "Argala".

A "revenge squad" of assassins led by a Spanish Naval Intelligence operative, Navy Captain Pedro Martinez ("Pedro El Marino"), planted a car bomb which killed José Miguel Beñaran Ordeñana, the ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna) leader who commanded the squad of Basque separatist guerrillas who assassinated Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco in Madrid five years previously.

Pedro El Marino was aided by a Spanish Army officer codenamed "Leonidas”, as well as by ultra-rightist actors, one of whom, Jean-Pierre Cherid, had been a former member of the French O.A.S. (Organisation de l'armee Secrete) and two neo-fascists: Jose Maria Boccardo from Argentina and the Italian Mario Ricci who belonged to Avanguardia Nazionale.

The murder on Thursday, December 21st 1978 was carried out in Anglet, a town in the Basque region of France.

The assassins had wanted to kill Argala on December 20th -the anniversary of Carrero Blanco's death- but were unable to do so as Argala did not emerge from his apartment on that day.

Argala, 29 years old at the time of his death, had activated the explosive that killed Blanco. He was buried six days later on Spanish soil and in 1982, a memorial plaque was unveiled in his hometown Arrigorriaga.

The revenge operation was claimed to have been financed by a personal bank loan with the weapons being purchased in Belgium. However, Pedro El Marino is said to have obtained the explosives from a US military base. He was at the forefront of a state-financed and directed "dirty war" against ETA mainly through a group known as the Spanish Basque Battalion.

 © Adeyinka Makinde (2023)

 Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

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