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Q&A: Changing face of ETA

MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- A car bomb at Malaga's international airport, blamed on ETA, has sparked fears of a campaign aimed at tourists visiting the coast.

Fears are also growing that the Basque separatist group has changed its tactics as hard-line members join. CNN's Jose Maria Ortega explains its new structure and strategy.

Q: Has ETA changed from a romantic intellectual group to a bunch of disaffected youngsters?

In-depth: Basque conflict, Violence in Spain  

A: Yes. Now they are young people coming from the "street war," and their only solution is violence. They have grown up running in the streets and throwing stones at the police, and now at the age of 20, they have decided not to change.

The difference is, now they do not throw stones; they detonate explosives. These young people have been taught the ideals of violence and separatism -- something that our constitution does not allow.

The Spanish constitution allows a high degree of autonomy in the Basque country; more, for example, than Northern Ireland.

Q: These members of ETA are called "legals" -- why is this?

A: "Legal," in this case, refers to a member of ETA who is not on police files. These activists have normal jobs that help them hide their criminal activities.

Q: How does this affect the tactics of the "legals?"

A: While the "legals" are able to work with a relative degree of anonymity, they are not professionals. They commit errors, which sometimes results in their own death.

Q: How significant is it that the new ETA members are operating outside the Basque region, taking their orders from the group's leaders based in France?

A: It is not that significant: the terrorists kill wherever and whenever they can, but the intended targets have spread outside the Basque country.

Q: Politicians, policemen, judges, academics and businessmen used to be ETA targets, but are tourists now at risk?

A: Every summer ETA launches a campaign of attacks in the tourist areas. The terrorists know that tourism is one of the main sources of revenue for Spain so they try to attack the state with non-lethal activities -- tourists themselves are not the target.

Q: How worrying is the Malaga bomb incident on Thursday (blamed on ETA) for tourists and the Spanish tourism industry?

A: The bomb at Malaga's airport was not meant to kill tourists; its intended target was the police who deactivated it. The police deactivated it after an anonymous call in the name of ETA to a newspaper.

Malaga was targeted because it is an important tourist area. The bombers knew this action would have an impact on many European nations, especially Britain and Germany.

Q: Have tourists been targeted before; when and to what extent?

A: Frequently. More than 10 years ago they left explosives with timers that exploded a month later.

Q: How could this make it more difficult for the police and authorities to try to defeat ETA?

A: The terrorists take advantage of the crowds of people on vacation in the coastal areas to move around unnoticed. Proof of this is that the ETA objective is to create a state of terror.

Q: Has the apparent change in ETA's tactics affected the attitude of Spaniards towards it?

A: Most people in Spain do not support its violent campaign for independence. ETA has less support than before; and proof of that lies in the group's amateur strategies and lack of political ideology.

• Basque country
• Spanish government

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