ETA Car Bomb Blast Rocks Madrid's International Airport
A powerful car bomb exploded in a multi-storey car park at Madrid's international airport Monday causing widespread damage but no injuries as the Basque separatist group ETA stepped up attacks on Spain's tourism sector at the height of the summer holiday season.
Police, acting on a warning from ETA, were about to defuse the bomb when it went off.
The blast was a defiant response from ETA that it was still in business despite police raids on the organisation's sympathisers in Catalonia and in the Basque region last week in which 14 people were arrested and more than 460 kilos (about 1,000 pounds) of explosives seized.
Monday's blast, which ripped through the second floor of the airport's Terminal 2 garage, reserved for domestic flights, damaged more than 100 vehicles and started a fire which was quickly brought under control.
A police highway patrol in San Sebastian, northern Spain, was warned in a telephone call at 0500 GMT that a Madrid-registered booby-trapped vehicle had been parked at the airport.
Security forces sealed off all access roads to the airport and bomb-disposal experts were getting ready to disarm the Renault 19 an hour later when it exploded. Police estimated the bomb contained about 50 kilos (110 lbs) of explosives.
The incident caused major traffic disruption round the airport, located five kilometers (three miles) east of the capital, including the main Barcelona-Madrid highway which runs alongside.
No flights were cancelled but hundreds of passengers had to abandon their vehicles and carry their luggage to reach airport terminals.
The blast appeared to be ETA's response to last week's police raids against the organisation which were prompted by a car-bomb blast August 18 in Salou, a popular tourist resort on Spain's northeast Mediterranean coast.
Ten people were injured in that blast for which ETA claimed responsiblity. ETA is targeting tourist areas as part of its 33-year campaign for an independent homeland covering the Basque regions of northern Spain and southwest France.
On August 22 Spanish police arrested eight people and seized 185 kilos of explosives and a booby-trapped car primed for use in raids in San Sebastian in which they dismantled an ETA command group known as Buruntza.
Police claim Buruntza was responsible for at least 10 assassinations last year.
On August 24 police arrested another six ETA suspects and seized 275 kilos of explosives.
ETA has been waging a violent campaign since 1968 for an independent homeland. It has been blamed for the deaths of 11 people since the beginning of the year and around 800 since the start of its campaign.
It declared a ceasefire in its struggle in 1998 but then broke it off 15 months later in December 1999 after accusing the government of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar of failing to negotiate and inflexibility - MADRID (AFP)
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