Four blasts rock northern Spain, ETA blamed

Four bombs exploded at popular seaside resorts in Cantabria, northern Spain on Sunday, after warning calls from the Basque separatist group, ETA, but no casualties were reported.

The explosions marked the beginning of ETA’s traditional summer bombing campaign in which it targets Spanish holiday resorts as part of its four-decade struggle for an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southern France.

The government says ETA has been severely weakened after a string of arrests but Sunday’s attacks showed the group has no intention of abandoning its armed struggle any time soon.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero broke off a peace process with ETA in 2006 after the group killed two Ecuadorians when it exploded a car bomb at Madrid’s Barajas International Airport.

”We received a call at about 10.30am [local time] from someone who said they represented ETA and told us ETA had planted four bombs,” said an emergency services official.

The first bomb exploded at about 10.15am GMT on a seafront promenade in Laredo, one of northern Spain’s most popular holiday destinations, damaging the walkway, breaking windows and sending a 25m plume of smoke into the air, an official said.

Holidaymakers had been cleared from the beach 45 minutes earlier and took cover in local cafes and bars, which drew down shutters to protect against the blast, witnesses told radio.

”There were no injuries because the area had been cleared and cordoned off,” a national government spokesperson said.

Weakened, still fighting
Many European schools have started, or are beginning to start their summer holidays and ETA’s summer bombings are aimed at hurting Spain’s tourism industry.

The second bomb went off about 40 minutes later in dunes at Noja, about 30km from Laredo, causing a loud blast but no damage, Spanish media reported.

Poor weather meant there were few people on the Noja beach but a police call to evacuate the area sent tourists running, blocking the road out of town to the city of Bilbao, media said.

The third explosion was next to a Red Cross post in Laredo, close to where the first device went off, officials said.

The fourth bomb exploded on a golf course at Noja.

ETA (Euskadi ta Askatasuna, or Basque Country and Freedom), usually gives a warning before attacking civilian targets but gives no notice of attacks on security, government and political officials.

The group is listed as a terrorist organisation by Spain, the United States and the European Union. It has killed more than 800 people since 1968, typically with car bombs or shootings.

Since the end of the peace process in 2006, ETA has been weakened by a series of arrests in Spain and France. Zapatero has ruled out further peace talks and says the guerrillas’ only option is a unilateral surrender.

”I want to condemn the attacks and issue a second message, just so it’s clear, that the best way to get a long prison sentence in Spain at the moment is to join ETA,” Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba told national radio on Sunday after the attacks.

The Cantabria blasts were the first attributed to ETA since May 14 when the separatists exploded a bomb without warning at the Civil Guard barracks in Legutiano, killing policeman Juan Manuel Pinuel-Villalon and injuring 4 others. — Reuters

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