23 February 2006

Bomb explodes 'after Eta warning call'


22/02/2006 - 16:11:31

A backpack bomb exploded today outside a factory in the Basque city of Bilbao after a warning call from the separatist group Eta, causing serious damage but no injuries, Spanish police said.

It was the third bombing in a week linked to Eta, further undermining recent hopes that the armed group was on the verge of declaring a truce.

The bomb was in a backpack placed at the entrance of a cannery in an industrial area of Bilbao and estimated to contain 11-15lbs of explosives, the Basque regional police said.

A sign on the backpack read: “Danger, bomb.”

Authorities had evacuated the factory and cordoned off the zone after the Basque newspaper Gara said it had received a warning call from someone claiming to speak for Eta.

Gara is often a mouthpiece for Eta statements.

The Spanish TV station CNN+ broadcast footage of the explosion, which shattered windows and kicked up a cloud of white dust.

The national news agency Efe quoted officials as saying the company that owned the factory had been mentioned in an Eta newsletter for refusing to make extortion payments – a traditional source of fundraising for the group.

A spokeswoman at the Basque regional police headquarters in Bilbao said she could not confirm this.

She said the bomb went off by itself rather than through a controlled detonation by bomb disposal experts.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said two weeks ago that he thought Spain was near “the beginning of the end” of Eta, and two leading newspapers said an Eta truce was imminent.

But on Saturday night the group issued a statement that made no mention of a ceasefire.

It reiterated Eta’s position that the Basque people have the right to determine their own future – a stance the government rejects – and it called for dialogue and “commitments” to end the nearly 40-year conflict.

Eta has killed more than 800 people since the late 1960s, but has not launched a fatal attack since May 2003, when a car bomb killed two policemen.

Zapatero offered Eta negotiations last May if it renounced violence, but the group has kept a campaign of relatively low-level violence, with dozens of explosions.

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