Combatant Communist Cells
Combatant Communist Cells
LEADER: Pierre Carrette
YEAR ESTABLISHED OR BECAME ACTIVE: 1984
ESTIMATED SIZE: four known members, including Carrette
USUAL AREA OF OPERATION: Belgium and, on one occasion, France
AFFILIATED ORGANIZATIONS: Direct Action of France and Red Army Faction of West Germany
The Combatant Communist Cells (CCC) formed in Belgium in the mid 1980s to oppose the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance and capitalism. It bombed a number of NATO-related targets in 1984 and 1985. More interested in gaining publicity than in taking lives, the CCC targeted property.
The CCC was briefly affiliated with the Red Army Faction (RAF, formerly known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang) in West Germany and Direct Action (DA) of France. Following the 1986 imprisonment of Pierre Carrette, the founder and leader of the CCC, the organization has been inactive.
The CCC is one of a number of anarchistic, leftwing terrorist organizations that appeared in Western Europe in the 1970s and 1980s to combat capitalism and promote communism. Along with the Red Brigades of Italy, Prima Linea of Italy, the RAF, and DA, the CCC appeared to pursue terrorist violence as an end in itself. Although the CCC claimed interest in a military-political struggle that would end American influence in Europe, it made no attempt to construct a new political foundation. It limited itself to destruction, terror, and pamphleteering.
The CCC chiefly targeted NATO. Headquartered in Brussels, NATO in the 1980s was a military and diplomatic alliance of twenty-six countries in Europe and North America. Founded in 1949, NATO sought to protect the democratic nations of Europe from an attack by the communist Soviet Union. It was the major European defense against communism and it was dominated by the United States, since American involvement in the alliance was believed to be the best deterrent against Soviet military force.
The CCC emerged in October 1984 with a string of bombings that targeted companies employed in placing U.S. nuclear cruise missiles in Europe. The first day of bombings damaged the offices of Sweda International, a division of the American firm, Litton Industries. Litton conceived and produced guidance systems for the nuclear cruise missiles deployed by the U.S.-dominated NATO. The second day of bombings damaged trucks belonging to a German company that produced materials for the transport of cruise missiles. Subsequent CCC targets included the European headquarters in Brussels of U.S.-based Motorola; a Belgian branch of the Bank of America; the main office of the Bruxelles Lambert Bank; a state tax office; the headquarters of a metalworking firm; and a branch of the Societe Generale de Banque, Belgium's leading bank, as well as attacks against NATO facilities and the NATO Central Europe Operating Agency in Versailles, France. Some of the explosives used by both the CCC and DA were traced to the same theft in Belgium and it is possible that the CCC worked with DA to attack the French NATO target. The CCC also attacked the Belgian Employers Association building and the central offices of the Belgian police. The group's activities came to an abrupt halt with the arrest of four of its leaders in late 1985.
PHILOSOPHY AND TACTICS
The CCC protested against the Americanization of Europe, capitalism, and Belgian involvement in NATO. According to a statement by the group, it aimed to launch an armed military-political struggle in Belgium, which had shown little interest in communism. The CCC targeted companies that were involved in the NATO program to deploy nuclear missiles in Europe as well as offices of the Liberal and Christian Democrat political parties.
The CCC did not have any state sponsorship, but affiliated with the Red Army Faction (RAF) and Direct Action (DA) in an anti-imperialist armed front to coordinate actions against NATO member governments. Unlike RAF and DA, the CCC picked symbolic and strategic targets for bombings as a means of gaining publicity. Much more of a propaganda group than a gathering of would-be killers, the CCC did not expressly target people. After planting a bomb, the CCC would typically issue a warning either by telephone or by pamphlet about thirty minutes before the scheduled detonation to give people time to evacuate. When two firefighters were killed as an unintended result of a May 1985 bombing attack against the Belgian Employers Association building, the CCC issued a statement blaming police for not warning the victims in time, and bombed a state police administrative center in the early morning hours in retaliation. It typically dropped leaflets around the sites of its attacks to publicize its cause.
The short-lived and small CCC garnered comparatively little attention. In the wake of its first bombing in 1984, Belgian Justice Minister Jean Gol said that the bombs appeared to be the work of amateurs, but the method used to publicize the bombings was more professional. He warned that it was time for Belgium to arm itself against the very real threat of terrorism. An unnamed NATO official subsequently lamented that NATO had become a target. He added that the CCC attacks served as a warning about the alliance's vulnerabilities. With the exception of CCC members, no one publicly spoke in support of the terrorist organization.
Small and short-lived, the CCC did not have much of an impact. It failed to halt NATO activities in Europe and it did not spark much interest in communism among Belgians. During the years of CCC activity, Belgium deployed forty-eight U.S. cruise missiles under the terms of a NATO agreement. Polls in the 1980s indicated that most Belgians wanted to remain in NATO and they opposed a unilateral move to break previous Belgian commitments to the alliance.
The greatest success of the CCC came when it bombed six Belgian valve pit sections of NATO's oil pipeline system in 1984. The attacks spewed fountains of burning fuel along a 100-mile belt of pipeline running from the French border to the West German border across the southern half of Belgium. The CCC halted NATO's pumping of fuel for three days and drew attention to the vulnerability of NATO's supply lines. However, NATO forces in Belgium had extra fuel supplies, thereby minimizing the impact of the attack. NATO leaders discussed ways to coordinate antiterrorism activities among the countries of the alliance in the wake of this bombing.
Pierre Carrette, leader of the CCC, offered no resistance when he was arrested in a Namur, Belgium, snack bar in December 1985, along with three of his followers. Born in 1952, Carrette was one of the suspects in a June 1979 bomb attack on the car of U.S. General Alexander Haig, who at the time was NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. In May 1982, Carrette was in a car with a bundle of Direct Action pamphlets and with Nathalie Menigon, a Direct Action leader, when he was involved in an accident and briefly detained by French police. Carrette ran a printing shop in Brussels until he disappeared in October 1984 in the aftermath of the first CCC bombings in Brussels. Carrett's suspected links to terrorism sparked the interest of the Belgian police and the authorities began searching for him. On November 4, 1985, he fired a gun at a security guard during a bomb attack on a bank. Later that same day, he was spotted surveying the damage done to another bank by a CCC bomb.
The three people arrested with Carrette were long known to police. Pascale Vandegeerde, Didier Chevrolet, and Bertrand Sassoie had ties to left-wing political groups; Sassoie had deserted from the Belgian army. The four CCC leaders were convicted on January 14, 1986, for the attempted murder of a security guard in a bank bombing on November 5, 1985. All have since been released from prison, with an unrepentant Carrette raising his clenched fist as he exited jail.
The CCC has not been heard from since the 1985 arrests of its leaders. It is probable that the arrests ended the existence of the organization, although there have been periodic rumors that the CCC was attempting to reform. The end of the cold war and the subsequent shift in NATO policy away from anticommunism has undoubtedly weakened procommunist terrorist organizations by removing some of the justification for their existence.
"Communist Terrorists Bomb Police Offices." United Press International. May 6, 1985.
"Four Accused of Terror Group Links." United Press International. December 16, 1985.
"Group Claims Bombings As Protest of U.S. Missiles." United Press International. October 4, 1984.
"Terrorist Bombings Knock Out NATO Supply Lines." United Press International. December 12, 1984.