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Chile eco-nihilist terrorism

01 August 2019 Carla Selman

On 25 July, an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated at a police station in Chile's capital Santiago in the Huechuraba neighbourhood, leaving five police officers injured. On that same day, another package was found at the offices of Quiñenco - a company owned by one of Chile's largest economic groups, the Luksic family − aimed at executive and former interior minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter; it did not detonate. The two packages arrived by post and police sources quoted in the local media suggest the two incidents are linked.

President Sebastián Piñera classed them as "terrorism" and said the sender had been identified, but no group has claimed responsibility. In 2017, an IED was posted to the residence of the then-president of state-owned mining company Codelco, causing him minor injuries. In January 2019, an IED detonated at a bus stop in Vicuña Mackenna with Bilbao in Providencia, leaving five injured. Eco-terrorist group ITS claimed responsibility for those attacks.

Significance

Traditional terrorism or anarchism targets in Santiago have focused on police stations, public transport infrastructure, banks, and government buildings in the city center. The recent incidents highlight that targets are expanding to commercial property and company executives in business areas such as Providencia and Las Condes. However, local groups operating in Santiago with the intention to carry out terrorist attacks consist of only a handful of members, are relatively disorganized, and lack the intent or capability to conduct a large-scale attack, mitigating property damage and death and injury risks.

The recent incidents will renew government priority for a proposed anti-terrorism law, increasing its likelihood of being approved in the coming months. The bill seeks to expand the use of undercover agents to support counter-terrorism investigations, strengthening security for protected witnesses, allowing phone tapping, toughening penalties, and changing the classification of terrorism offences to include individuals acting alone (rather than just groups). Statements by opposition parliamentarians strongly condemning the attack will indicate faster approval of the anti-terrorism law in Congress, where the ruling Chile Vamos ("Chile Let's Go") coalition does not have a majority. A new attack causing major property damage or casualties would indicate an increase in the intent or capability and level of organization of terrorist groups.

Posted 01 August 2019 by Carla Selman, Senior Research Analyst, Country Risk, IHS Markit

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