July 23, 2005

Spain blames Galician radicals for bomb

By Adrian Croft

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain blamed radical groups seeking the
independence of the Galicia region for a bomb that exploded in
the busy pilgrimage center of Santiago de Compostela on
Saturday, causing minor damage but no injuries.

Police arrested two people they believe planted the bomb
that exploded outside the main office of regional savings bank
Caixa Galicia, officials said.

"The police link those responsible with radical
independence groups," a government statement said.

City officials said police were prepared for a possible
attack by Galician radicals two days before the northwestern
region celebrates Galicia day, an annual regional holiday.

"It's not a surprise, because we feared it. We thought this
could happen and that it could come from where it's come from.
Great precautions had been taken and the police acted
immediately," the mayor of Santiago de Compostela, Jose Antonio
Sanchez Bugallo, told Cadena Ser radio.

The government statement said police had recently stepped
up surveillance of people linked to groups suspected of

"This operation made possible the detection of two
suspicious people, so the National Police immediately cordoned
off the area," the statement said.

Police quickly swooped on the two people they suspected of
planting the bomb, it said.

Santiago is the capital of Galicia, a green and rugged
fishing region which has its own regional government and
language. Some Galicians want more autonomy from Madrid.

Although not as well known as Basque separatist guerrillas
ETA, shadowy Galician radical groups sometimes use violence to
promote their cause.

In 2003, a series of home-made bombs blamed on
pro-independence radicals exploded outside offices of the
then-ruling Popular Party in Galicia and an office of the
Galician regional government.


Galicia is currently undergoing a political shake-up.

Manuel Fraga, 82, a former minister under the dictatorship
of General Francisco Franco, has ruled Galicia for 16 years.
But his center-right Popular Party lost its majority in a June
regional election.

The bomb exploded hours after the Socialists -- who govern
in Madrid -- and moderate Galician nationalists signed an
agreement to form a coalition to rule the region.

Socialist Emilio Perez Tourino is due take over as regional
leader on August 2.

ETA has also struck in Galicia in the past. It planted a
bomb in Santiago de Compostela in August last year as part of a
summer bombing campaign aimed at undermining Spain's important
tourism sector.

Santiago de Compostela, a scenic medieval town, attracts
tens of thousands of Christian pilgrims every year to what is
traditionally believed to be the burial place of the Apostle
St. James. (Additional reporting by Raquel Castillo, Andres