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Car bomb claimed by Basque separatists injures 26 at Madrid airport

Car bomb claimed by Basque separatists injures 26 at Madrid airport

Suspected Basque separatists detonated a powerful car bomb in a parking garage at Madrid's international airport Saturday, leaving one person missing and lightly injuring 26 people, officials said.
Rescuers were searching the debris for a man believed to have been taking a nap inside a parked car when the bomb exploded, bringing down part of the multistory garage and sending a massive column of smoke into the air. Most of the wounded suffered some damage to their ears from the blast's shock wave. One person was cut by shards of flying glass and was taken to a hospital.
The explosion halted air traffic at the airport's new Terminal 4 on one of the year's busiest travel days, and brought a fiery end to a nine-month-old ETA cease-fire that had spurred the greatest hopes in a decade of a peaceful end to the conflict.
Three warning calls were received in the Basque region just before the explosion. In one call, to an emergency services number, a man claimed responsibility for the separatists, the interior minister said.
The government blamed ETA and condemned the group for violating its truce.
"Violence is incompatible with dialogue in a democracy," said Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba at a news conference. "This attack interrupts nine months without violent activity. It breaks a permanent cease-fire that ETA issued nine months ago."
Rubalcaba said the missing man had gone to the airport to pick someone up but was thought to have been napping in his car at the time of the blast.
Air traffic at Terminal 4, which is connected to the garage, was halted for several hours but returned to normal by early afternoon, he said. Flights were not affected at the other three terminals at Barajas's International Airport.
One witness, Renzo Zarzal, 28, a worker at a nearby highway toll booth, said the blast, which occurred around 9:00 a.m. (0800GMT), was strong enough to shake some surrounding buildings.
"I was outside my booth talking to a colleague when there was a massive blast that really shook us and rattled the roof of the toll complex," Zarzal said.
The building housing the parking lot appeared to be on fire. Spanish television broadcast images of yellow-clad firefighters and rescue workers rushing to the scene amid the smoke.
Among the injured, the worst off appeared to be a policeman who received cuts from flying glass.
The explosion came a few hours after the execution in Baghdad of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, leading to some initial fears that Islamic militants might be involved.
The bombing seemed likely to be the nail in the coffin of a nascent peace effort championed by Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. ETA has not killed anyone since May 2003, but continued a series of low-level bombings until just before the cease-fire.
More than 800 people have died since the group took up arms in the late 1960s.
The announcement of peace talks was derided by Zapatero's political opponents, who said he was rewarding an active terrorist group whose motives could not be trusted. The Socialist leader also came under fire from ETA and its political supporters, who accused him of dragging his feet on the peace talks and harassing pro-independence militants with police raids and court rulings.
ETA and its outlawed political wing, Batasuna, have also been demanding _ and the government refusing _ the start of talks among Basque political parties on the region's future. These would be in parallel to talks between the government and ETA on the nuts and bolts of dissolving the armed militancy.
Zapatero said in June he would hold such talks with ETA, but they are not known to have taken place. Pro-ETA street violence that had halted with the truce resumed in earnest in August, and ETA was blamed for a heist of 300 pistols in France in October.
Basque newspapers reported two weeks ago that the government did hold a preliminary meeting with ETA this month in an undisclosed European country to feel out ETA's intentions and that it came away with the sensation that the truce would hold. The government refused to confirm or deny the reports.
As recently as Friday Zapatero said the Spanish government remained optimistic that the ETA cease-fire would lead to a definitive peace process, despite increased speculation that ETA might resume attacks.
In addition to Basque violence, Spain has been in the crosshairs of Islamic militants. The March 11, 2004, bombing by Islamic radicals of commuter trains in the capital killed 191 people, and injured more than 1,500.


Updated : 2021-04-10 23:10 GMT+08:00