The Basque separatist group ETA continues to operate but its actions are usually directed against Spanish targets such as police, military and politicians. ETA characteristically uses bombs or car bombs, and the chances of being affected by their actions while visiting are slim. In the summer of 2002 the group did detonate bombs in tourist areas, on the Costa Blanca and Costa del Sol, but they phoned in warnings to police to allow them to clear the areas. The intent appeared to be to instill fear rather than kill or maim, even though there were two fatalities and nine injuries. ETA has threatened to target the tourism industry again this summer, but if last year’s pattern holds they will be out to scare visitors away rather than to kill anyone. The risk is in being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Travelers will need to be aware of police actions and obey their commands if told to clear an area, but otherwise shouldn’t be affected by the ETA threat.
Street crime in Spain’s cities has been increasing in recent years, and has become more aggressive. Teams of thieves use “hit and run” tactics on victims and many robberies are committed by assailants with knives. According to the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, of the approximately 900,000 Americans who visited Spain last year, “thousands” reported to the embassy or consulates that they had been robbed or scammed. Thieves work in airports and even in hotel lobbies, so keep a close watch on your possessions at all times.