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Breton Revolutionary Army

Breton Revolutionary Army

LEADER: Christian Georgeault

USUAL AREA OF OPERATION: France; Brittany

OVERVIEW

The Breton Revolutionary Army, known in French as the Armée Revolutionnaire Bretton (ARB), began as the militant wing of the Breton Liberation Front in 1971. The Breton Liberation Front was created to obtain the liberation of the region of Brittany from France. In 1974, the group began its armed resistance to France by targeting a variety of government facilities. Over the next 30 years, the group would be held responsible for over 200 bombings. The group established a political front in 1982 called Emgann (combat).

HISTORY

The region of Brittany operated independently under the rule of a duke until 1488. In 1488, France defeated the Duke of Brittany and forced the duke to submit to a treaty with the king. The region remained ruled by the duke until it was incorporated into the Kingdom of France in 1532. After the French Revolution in 1789, Brittany, along with other culturally diverse regions, lost its "privileges" in favor of a one-nation, one-language France.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the region of Brittany began to experience a cultural revival due, in part, to the emergence of immersion schools called Diwans. These schools fostered the use of the Breton language, and ancient Celtic dialect. In 1963, during this period of cultural revival, the Breton Liberation Front (FLB) formed with the goal of achieving liberation from France. Emerging from the FLB, the Breton Revolutionary Army (ARB) was established in 1971 as the armed branch of the FLB.

The ARB launched more than 200 armed attacks over the next 30 years. These activities generally took the form of explosives at government facilities, such as tax offices and town halls, and resulted in few human casualties. However, two members of the ARB were killed as they attempted to defuse a bomb they had planted. In addition, on April 19, 2000, an explosives attack on a McDonald's restaurant killed an employee.

In 1982, the ARB established the official front of the group called Emgann. This group operates through campaigns of demonstrations and the distribution of literature to promote their goal of self-determination. Two key leaders of the ARB had ties to Emgann. Christian Georgeault is the former general secretary and Gael Roblin is a former spokesperson.

In the 1990s, the group's strategy shifted from a separatist movement to an anti-American and anti-globalization ideology. The ARB joined forces with other nationalist groups such as the Real IRA (Irish Republic Army) and the Basque Fatherland and Freedom (ETA) separatist movement from Spain. In September 1999, ETA and the ARB successfully stole an eight-ton cache of explosives from a quarry in Brittany. These explosives were linked to a string of bombings throughout Brittany.

PHILOSOPHY AND TACTICS

The goal of the ARB, when it began, was autonomy from French rule. It attempted to achieve its mission by planting bombs on specific targets, usually a French government office. The ARB successfully planned the symbolic bombings in the middle of the night so that there would be no casualties. In a Time magazine article, Bruce Crumley called the group, "quixotic," with a "quaint reputation" and "folkloric nobility" due to its use of force with no casualties. In the late 1990s, however, the group allied with other organizations whose goals were to separate from their prevailing powers, namely ETA. Together with ETA, the ARB moved into a new arena of operations after stealing an eight-ton cache of explosives. The group shifted their focus from a nationalist and anti-French colonialism to an anti-American, anti-globalization stance. The ARB accepted responsibility for an eighteen-month wave of attacks in an interview given to the Basque separatist newspaper Gara. In that article, the ARB stated that it would expand their targets beyond symbolic actions. The bombing at the McDonald's restaurant in April 2000, and the death of the employee, is considered to be the last target struck in that wave of attacks.

LEADERSHIP

CHRISTIAN GEORGEAULT

Christian Georgeault is the former secretary general of Emgann. He is currently serving an eleven-year sentence for his involvement in the April 2000 bombing at the McDonald's restaurant. Gael Roblin, the former spokesperson for Emgann, is also serving a sentence for the April 2000 bombing. Both are awaiting trails on the explosives stolen in 1999.

KEY EVENTS

1998:
An explosion at a tax office in Matignon leaves little damage and no injuries.
1999:
A bomb is defused at a Callac tax office.
1999:
Mayenne court is hit by explosives attack.
1999:
An overnight bombing at a tax office occurs in Morlaix.
1999:
A bomb containing a kilo (2.2 pounds) of dynamite explodes at a Cintegabelle tax office, creating extensive damage to office complex and nearby homes.
1999:
Twenty-five sticks of dynamite and a detonator are found and defused at a government-run employment agency called ANPE.
1999:
A bomb is found and detonated at an ANPE office in Rennes.
1999:
Explosives cause extensive damage to tax office, post office, and town hall; a young boy is injured.
2000:
An explosion damages the town hall and police offices in La Baule.
2000:
Armed attacks on tax offices occur in the towns of Pontorson and Dol.
2000:
Shots are fired into a Gendarmerie recruitment office.
2000:
Explosives destroy ground and first floor of the tax office in Argentre-du-Plesis.
2000:
Explosives linked to the cache stolen with ETA in September 1999 kill McDonald's restaurant employee in Quevert.

Although the members of the ARB maintain their innocence in the bombing at the McDonald's, the bombing coincided with the discovery of another bomb at a Rennes post office. The two both contained explosives that were traced to the cache stolen with ETA.

OTHER PERSPECTIVES

For Brittany, wanting independence from France has been a centuries-old struggle. After the centralization of French government with the French revolution, many of Breton customs were close to extinction. Even up until the 1900s, student caught speaking the Breton language in school were beaten. However, in the last several decades, the region has gained much autonomy from France and the cultural revival of the 1960s is flourishing. Festivals celebrating traditional music have grown in popularity and the Breton flag flies next to the French flag at town halls. This cultural revival has, according the Jon Henley of The Guardian newspaper, "tended to make the ARB seem absurd."

SUMMARY

In his Time magazine article, Bruce Crumley expressed that the ARB "had an innocence that derived from the movement's success in not harming innocents despite scores of symbolic bombings." John Henley from The Guardian wrote that the attacks carried out by the ARB, "were mainly harmless and symbolic." As the group allied with ETA and the Real IRA, their strategy changed. The bombing at the McDonald's appeared to be their last target. The political wing of the ARB, Emgann, continues to promote the idea of independence from France.

PRIMARY SOURCE
Five Arrested over McDonald's Bombing

Five suspected Breton activists have been arrested in connection with a fatal bomb attack on a McDonald's outlet in western France last month.

A 27-year-old female McDonald's employee died in the 19 April (2000) attack, which also blew off part of the roof of the building, shattered windows and left a large crater.

Three men and two women were arrested by anti-terrorist police. One was the spokesman of Emgann, a group seen as a front for the Breton Revolutionary Army, known by its French initials ARB.

The ARB issued a statement to the newspaper Journal du Dimanche on Sunday denying it planted the bomb which exploded at the drive-in counter outside the McDonald's at Quevert, near Dinan in northern Brittany.

SECOND ATTACK

However, in the same statement the group said it had bombed another McDonald's restaurant five days before the attack in Quevert.

On Tuesday, Justice Department sources confirmed the claims by the Breton separatists.

This attack—on the restaurant in Pornic, near Nantes—happened on 14 April and went unreported publicly at the time.

Justice sources said the director of the Pornic McDonald's had filed a complaint for break-in and damages, but local police failed to fully investigate because the damages were slight.

They returned to investigate after the ARB claim and found there had been a bomb explosion.

Source: BBC News, 2000

SOURCES

Web sites

The Guardian. "Breton Separatists on Trial for Attacks." 〈http://www.guardian.co.uk/france/story/o.html〉 (accessed July 20, 2005).

MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base. "Breton Revolutionary Army." 〈http://www.tkp.org/Group.jsp?groupID=3548〉 (accessed July 20 2005).

Time Magazine Europe. "From Quaint to Bloodthirsty." 〈http://www.time.com/time/Europe/magazine/2000.0501/burgerbomb.html〉 (accessed July 20, 2005).

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