Alleged anarchist José López Menéndez, a 30-year-old resident of Madrid, is thought to have lead police in the capital on a wild goose for more than a year. The member of the Tierra Salvaje organization was arrested last week and is accused of having planted 32 small bombs in a variety of public places since last April. Menéndez was due to appear before the High Court on Friday on charges of terrorism and other offenses.
Police struggled to track down Menéndez given his modus operandi: he placed explosive devices in very distinct buildings, from a church to a leather goods shop. Behind his actions was his ideology, a blend of base anarchism that supports the vegan movement.
The first attack attributed by police to Menéndez took place on April 14, 2009, when he is alleged to have smashed the windows of a leather clothing store and a tortilla restaurant.
A month later, he is thought to have placed a device at the headquarters of the United Left political party in the center of the capital. He always operated at night and wore a balaclava, making identification harder.
"The problem we faced was finding out whether the fires and explosions were the work of a group or a single person. There are a lot of fires every year in Madrid and he didn't operate in a specific area," say sources involved in the investigation. Menéndez's methods were "very rudimentary," although he always achieved his goals.
One of his methods was to soak a blanket in flammable liquid, dry it and then wrap it around a gas bottle or lighter refill canisters. The resulting blasts were moderate, but sufficient to destroy the entrances of the business he targeted.
In recent months, Menéndez concentrated on meat industry vehicles, bank branches and Social Security offices. "As [his targets] were so varied, we thought at one point we were dealing with hooliganism," say police sources. In the end, Menéndez's desire for recognition proved his undoing.
He began to claim responsibility for his attacks on ultra-leftist websites on which it proved almost impossible for police to follow his trail, until he committed an error: on one of his nocturnal raids, he failed to hide his face and was caught clearly on a security camera. Menéndez was arrested at his home in Madrid on September 14.