Explosion Rocks Hotel in Spanish Tourist Resort

Published August 18th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

A car bomb exploded at a hotel a coastal resort near Barcelona on Saturday in what was seen as a continuing campaign against tourist centers by the Basque separatist group ETA. 

Some 600 German, Italian, British, French and Russian tourists were temporarily evacuated from the Cala Font hotel at Salou on the Catalan coast following a tip-off about the bomb. 

The device went off in the hotel car park as bomb disposal experts were trying to defuse it but no one was seriously injured, Spanish media said. 

About 10 people reportedly received minor cuts from flying glass.  

Police blamed the blast on ETA, which is fighting for an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and southern France. 

The explosion came a day after a meeting to boost cooperation between the Spanish interior ministry in Madrid and the regional Basque government in Vitoria, as part of an anti-terrorism drive. 

Treated prominently in the Spanish media, the key meeting appeared to indicate Madrid and Vitoria were moving towards closer cooperation after years of discord over how to deal with ETA. 

Spanish media said an anonymous caller alerted motorway rescue services in San Sebastian, in the Basque country, 40 minutes before the booby-trapped Renault 25 exploded in Salou. 

ETA frequently alerts motorway rescue services when it plants explosives. 

The vehicle, which was registered in Cordoba, southern Spain, had been stolen in San Sebastian. 

The explosive used was the same substance as the 1.6 tons stolen in Grenoble in France last March, local authorities said. 

ETA said in March it considered Spanish holiday resorts legitimate targets. Some 50 million tourists visit Spain each year and the industry is vital to the country's economy. 

In a statement in March ETA warned would-be tourists not to visit Spain's holiday destinations. 

"To avoid undesirable consequences we recommend to them right now not to go these places," the group said.  

Interior Minister Mariano Rajoy has blamed ETA for two explosions this week on the high-speed railway linking Madrid with Seville disrupting rail services. 

In July, bomb disposal experts defused a car bomb at Malaga international airport on the Costa del Sol following an ETA warning. 

In March, ETA was blamed for a car bomb in Rosas, another resort near Salou, which killed a police officer. 

On Friday, top officials from Madrid and the Basque country agreed to set up bodies to coordinate efforts by national and Basque regional police to combat ETA.  

The move indicated an end to major divergences in policy between Spain's ruling Popular Party, led by conservative Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, and the moderate, non-violent Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) in power in the troubled northern Spanish province. 

The upbeat outcome of the talks was in marked contrast to a deadlocked meeting on Monday between Aznar and Basque governor Juan Jose Ibarretxe. 

Madrid regularly accuses the Basque authorities of not doing enough to fight ETA or stem rising urban crime in the province blamed on youth groups with links to armed group -- MADRID, Spain (AFP) 

© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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