A powerful bomb exploded Thursday in a working-class neighbuorhood of Bilbao after a warning call from the Basque separatist group ETA, injuring seven police officers, shattering windows and damaging cars, officials said.
The early morning blast targeted an office of Spain’s governing Socialist Party on the outskirts of the Basque region’s main city.
A caller claiming to speak for ETA telephoned a regional traffic department a half-hour earlier saying where and when the blast would occur, a police official said.
Seven officers who were helping to evacuate people and cordon off the zone were slightly injured in the blast, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity in keeping with police regulations.
It caused heavy damage to the party office, apartment buildings and cars in La Pean, a crowded, blue-collar district.
“The explosion was deafening. I live in one of the buildings and we are all terrified,” said Rosa Zunzunegi, a 68-year-old retiree. “We are working-class people. Why does ETA attack us with bombs?”
“We had to evacuate old people, children, people who were in their houses sleeping at this time,” Basque Interior Department chief Javier Balza told Cadena SER radio. “The houses are badly damaged. In the end, it’s the people who suffer.”
Dealing with ETA is one of the main challenges facing Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero as he begins his second term in office.
ETA has killed more than 825 people since the late 1960s in its campaign for an independent Basque country in northern Spain and southwestern France.
The group declared a cease-fire in March 2006, but reverted to violence after failing to win concessions toward independence in negotiations with Zapatero’s government.
ETA ended the cease-fire in December 2006 with a powerful car bomb that killed two people in Madrid. Besides more than a dozen non-lethal bombings since then, it has also killed two Spanish police in southern France, and a former town councilor in the Basque region on the eve of the March 9 vote that saw Zapatero re-elected. It has staged at least two bombings since then.
The Interior Ministry has said it Spain is in for a ‘long cycle’ of ETA violence.
Zapatero appealed last week to opposition conservatives to join him in a united front against ETA. The conservatives said they want guarantees that Zapatero will not try to negotiate again.
Maria Jesus Cantero, a 39-year-old baker who lives in La Pena, said after Thursday’s bombing that she does not have much faith in politicians.
“I laugh at politicians when they say they are going to do away with ETA. Here we have been waiting for a long time and nothing has changed.” (AP)
Several police officers injured in blast in Spain