MADRID, Spain – A car bomb exploded Wednesday in a business park on the outskirts of Madrid just after the morning rush hour, injuring 43 people. Government officials blamed the Basque separatist group ETA.
The blast blew out windows at the back of a modern, six-story, brick-and-glass office building located about 10 yards from the car, which was destroyed. Most of the injured were people inside who suffered cuts from flying glass shards.
“What saved me … was my computer,” which faced the first-story window, said Manuel Amenteros, communications director for Bull, the French computer maker which has its offices in the building.
“I think it’s destroyed,” said Amenteros, who was knocked to the floor by the blast.
Bull’s director-general for Spain, Julio del Valle, has an office overlooking the street where the car was parked. His window was blown out by the blast. “I was really lucky,” he said, with a bandaged right hand and flecks of blood on his suit.
Authorities noted a caller claiming to represent ETA gave the general location of the attack less than an hour before it happened.
Speaking from Poland, where he’s on an official visit, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said, “I want to tell ETA terrorists, and those who support them, that there is no room for them in political life nor in society. Bombs lead only to prison.”
In Madrid, Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso noted 14 ETA suspects were arrested Tuesday and the car bomb went off Wednesday. “Those are the facts.”
ETA is trying to “destroy” Spanish democracy in its zeal for an independent homeland in northern Spain, he said, and consequently government policy is “to bring about the end of the terrorist group ETA.”
The Basque regional parliament wants Spain to accept “shared sovereignty” over the three-province region, across the Pyrenees mountains from southwest France. Last week the national Parliament voted a resounding “no.”
The regional parliament also wants the political group Batasuna, seen as ETA’s mouthpiece, to be allowed to field candidates in elections on April 17. Batasuna was outlawed in 2003 and the national government rejects all appeals for its reinstatement.
Wednesday’s blast was the worst in Spain’s capital since the train bombings of last March 11 that killed 191 people and were claimed by militants who said they acted on behalf of the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaida.
The former Popular Party government of then Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar initially, and wrongly, blamed ETA. That was a factor in its loss to Zapatero’s Socialists in national elections three days later.
Wednesday’s bomb contained about 66 pounds of explosives, according to Alonso. It exploded shortly after 3:30 a.m. EST near Ifema, a sprawling convention center where King Juan Carlos was to inaugurate a major art show later in the day, accompanied by President Vicente Fox (news – web sites) of Mexico. The Royal Palace said the ceremony was still on for the evening.
The explosion shattered thick panes of glass in several nearby buildings and about a dozen parked cars. It was heard several miles away and sent up a huge plume of white smoke.
Forty-three people suffered bruises, cuts from flying glass and damaged eardrums, said Javier Ayuso, a spokesman for the Madrid emergency medical service. Twenty-four of the injured were taken to hospitals but by late afternoon all had been released.
The telephone warning was received by the Basque newspaper Gara, which often receives such contacts from ETA. But the bomb went off at a spot down the street from the building where the caller had said it would explode, officials said.
ETA is blamed for more than 800 deaths since the late 1960s in a campaign of bombings and shootings.
The Interior Ministry said the 14 ETA suspects were arrested Tuesday in a variety of cities in all three Basque provinces, plus neighboring Navarra, Valencia in eastern Spain and Cadiz in the south.
The suspects were involved in recruiting new members, supporting existing commandos and gathering information on potential targets for attack, the ministry said in a statement.