September 25, 2005

Car bomb explodes in Spain after ETA warning

By Adrian Croft

MADRID (Reuters) - A car bomb exploded at an industrial
park in central Spain on Saturday but there were no casualties
in the first attack in two months by the armed Basque
separatist group ETA.

Two Basque newspapers had received calls in the name of ETA
warning a bomb would explode at the industrial park, officials
said. That gave police time to evacuate the area, a few miles
(kms) from the historic walled town of Avila, west of Madrid.

"The police arrived and told us we had two minutes to get
out," Juan Carlos Fernandez, a worker at a printing plant, told
state radio. He said the blast occurred soon afterwards.

Three buildings were damaged by the bomb, which police
believed was placed in a van parked nearby, officials said.

ETA, which has killed nearly 850 people since it began its
separatist campaign in 1968, did not stage its usual August
bombing campaign at holiday resorts this year, fuelling
speculation a truce could be imminent.

The last time ETA struck was on July 29 when it planted
bombs alongside two roads out of Madrid as millions of people
flooded out of cities to begin summer holidays. There were no


In an unprecedented overture, Spain's 18-month-old
Socialist government said in May it would talk to the group if
it stopped violence, and the separatists responded with calls
for a peace process and a partial ceasefire against elected

But a month later a newspaper reported ETA as saying it
would still target members of the government.

On Tuesday, ETA claimed responsibility for five attacks in
the past few months in a letter to the Basque newspaper Gara.

ETA, branded a terrorist organization by Spain, the
European Union and the United States, has carried out a bombing
and shooting campaign for an independent Basque state in
northern Spain and southwestern France.

Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso condemned Saturday's
attack in a statement, saying the government was determined to
press on until "the definitive disappearance of terrorism."

Spanish media said the blast occurred near a printing
factory run by a brother-in-law of former Spanish Prime
Minister Adolfo Suarez and not far from a police training

ETA has been weakened in the past few years by a sustained
police crackdown that has led to hundreds of arrests in France
and Spain. It has not carried out a fatal attack for more than
two years.

The opposition conservative Popular Party, fiercely
critical of government policy on ETA, also condemned Saturday's

"ETA has to be beaten using the law and police
effectiveness and not through dialogue with murderers," the
party's secretary general, Angel Acebes, said in a statement.

(Additional reporting by Raquel Castillo)