The Training of Terrorist Organizations


by Major David E. Smith USMC



Western European terrorism is largely urban in nature and is

comprised primarily of Marxist groups and organizations organized

along ethnic and religious lines. Several hard core European Marxist

groups cooperated during the l98O's. The Combatant Communist

Cells (CCC) of Belgium, Direct Action (AD) of France, and the Red

Army Faction (RAF) of Germany allied to form the Anti Imperialist

Allied Front. The front followed an anti NATO policy. Additionally,

the Red Brigades (RB) of Italy also had contact with RAF and AD

members. These groups, several of which were established by

members trained by Palestinian terrorists, currently present little

threat to the continent. Marxism seems to have lost its appeal there.

Ominously though, Iranian government agents are reputed to have

made contact with the remnants of some of those organizations

during l994.58 One can speculate that Iran believes they could be

useful to her cause in the future.

The greatest organic terrorist threat to Europe comes from the

ethnic/religious movements exemplified by the PIRA, ETA, and PKK.

The ETA and PIRA have established a close working relationship.

Many members met at various Middle Eastern training camps

beginning during the l97O's. In l98O, a Basque prisoner indicated

that at least l5 of his ETA comrades had attended an Irish weapons

and explosives training course.59

In Ireland, much of the Provos legendary expertise in bombs has

been self developed. Daithi O'Connell, of PIRA fame, is the

acknowledged inventor of the car bomb. Many PIRA volunteers

learned their bomb manufacturing skills from their civilian

occupations as electricians, and surprisingly, pin ball machine

repairmen.60 As time progressed they perfected their skills at

developing time delay and remotely detonated fuses. The Irish have

also been innovative in the employment of blast accentuators and in

booby trapping their bombs.

Training in how to resist interrogation is another feature of PIRA

education. When new PIRA inmates arrive in British or Irish prisons,

they are immediately approached by other incarcerated cadre and

debriefed on their capture. This information is smuggled out of the

institution and provided to the command structure for analysis by

leaders and promulgation to members at large. Other "lessons

learned" are useful to the PIRA. Members are instructed to take

possession of weapons as late as possible prior to conducting an

operation, and to move to a safe house immediately after the

engagement. This minimizes their exposure while in possession of

illegal weapons and gets them out of sight quickly. Once at the safe

house, weapons are transported to a hiding spot and members wash

and change clothes. Attention to detail is stressed. The terrorists

even scrub their nails to remove any residue of explosives or

firearms in order to conceal evidence from forensic scientists of the

Irish and British authorities.61 Curiously, many particularly effective

Irish Republican terrorists obtained their skills in such areas as crew

served weapons, including mortars, during service with the British


Training for members of PIRA active service units is conducted

by training officers at safe sites in Ireland. Detailed explosives

training is provided along with instruction in small arms and

machine guns. Basic training includes methods of priming and

detonating bombs, while advanced courses teach more progressive

classes on subjects such as booby trapping and methods of remote

controlled explosives. Much of the training seems to be geared at

increasing the confidence level of members in order to enhance their

effectiveness at placing and detonating bombs.63