ETA blamed for van bomb in Madrid

10th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

Spanish interior minister says the Basque separatist group is responsible for the bomb which caused extensive damage but no casualties.

MADRID – A bomb exploded Monday in a Madrid business district in an attack blamed by Spain's interior minister on the Basque separatist group ETA.

The blast followed an overnight ruling by Spain's Supreme Court banning two pro-independence parties, D3M and Askatasuna, from participating in a 1 March regional election because of alleged links to ETA.

A van packed with explosives caused extensive damage but no injuries when it went off during rush hour just after 9 am (0800 GMT).

Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said the bombing, the first by ETA in the Spanish capital since December 2006, was a reaction to the Supreme Court ruling.

"What ETA did this morning ratifies the Supreme Court decision last night," Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba told reporters at the scene of the explosion in the business district of Campo de las Naciones.

The blast occurred near the offices of a subsidiary of Spanish construction firm Ferrovial, the owners of BAA which operates seven airports in Britain including London's Heathrow and Gatwick.

The company is involved in building a high-speed train link in the Basque region that is opposed by ETA, which is blamed for 825 deaths in its 40-year campaign for an independent Basque homeland.

Speaking at a joint news conference with visiting Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said he was convinced those responsible for the attack would be brought to justice.

"The only way to take part in elections and take part in democratic institutions is to end car bombings, violence, guns, bullets, assassinations, extortions, of so much useless cruelty," Zapatero said.

Anonymous calls to the emergency services and the Red Cross had warned there was a bomb an hour and a half before it exploded, giving police enough time to locate the vehicle and cordon off the area.

"We were told that there was a bomb alert, that we should stay away from the windows. And all of a sudden, 'boom.' We saw the windows and computers shake," said Simon, a 29-year-old French citizen who works in the district.

The explosion left a crater one metre (three feet) deep, damaged more than 30 vehicles parked nearby and broke windows in nearby offices, a police statement said.

The blast also caused traffic hold-ups and led to the temporary suspension of metro services on the line to Madrid's Barajas airport, Europe's fourth-busiest, Spanish media reported.

In December 2006 Barajas was the site of the last attack by ETA in Madrid when a van loaded with explosives went off at the airport’s car park, killing two Ecuadoran men.

That blast was the first by ETA since it declared a "permanent ceasefire" in March 2006.

The outfit formally called off its truce in June 2007, saying it had grown frustrated with the lack of concessions on the part of the government of Zapatero in their tentative peace talks.

Since calling of its ceasefire, ETA has carried out about 30 attacks which killed six people, including three policemen.

The last killing claimed by ETA came in December when the outfit shot dead a 71-year-old businessman Ignacio Uria Mendizabalin the Basque Country who owned a construction company that was working on the Basque high-speed rail link.

Media reports said the group had warned contractors working on it that they would become targets.

Monday's blast comes four years ago to the day when ETA carried out a car bomb attack in the same district a few weeks before the 2005 regional elections.

Then, a car loaded with 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of explosives injured about 40 people.

ETA is considered a terrorist organisation by both the European Union and the United States.

[AFP / Expatica]

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