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Bomb Planted in Marine’s Car Explodes on U.S. Embassy Grounds

February 19, 1986

LISBON, Portugal (AP) _ A bomb planted in the trunk of a Marine’s car exploded in flames just inside the modern, heavily-protected U.S. Embassy compound, but quick action by Portuguese guards prevented casualties, embassy officials said.

Tuesday’s explosion came shortly after the guards spotted a suspicious- lookin g parcel in the car trunk during a routine security check, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The guards shouted a warning, the Marine driver ran for cover, and the area was cleared. Minutes later the silver-gray Volkswagen Golf exploded, according to the sources.

Flames shot high into the air, and glass shards and other debris flew as far as 100 yards away.

Embassy officials said the bomb was discovered after the Marine, who was not identified, drove through the compound’s outer gate.

Radio Comercial said today a man identifying himself only as a member of the Popular Forces of April 25, or FP-25, telephoned and claimed the group planted the bomb. The left-wing terrorist group also has claimed responsibility for two previous attacks on the embassy since Oct. 27, 1984, and for assassinations of Portuguese businessmen and officials.

The Portuguese guards, from a local security agency hired to check out all vehicles at the embassy compound, doused the blazing wreckage with fire extinguishers.

U.S. Marine guards at the embassy placed the tree-lined compound’s ultra- modern security system on full alert.

″Tigers’ teeth,″ a series of long, steel pincers that rise from the driveway to stop incoming vehicles, were put in position, while a massive steel gate and a raised section of driveway blocked entry into the compound’s fenced inner grounds.

The embassy, a brick-and-concrete building completed two years ago, was more than a hundred yards from the car and was unscathed. It replaced a downtown building that was considered a risk.

The burning hulk of the car was about 20 feet inside the compound gates and 10 feet from a guardhouse, but neither the guardhouse nor other cars parked in the lot were damaged. The car with the bomb was in the outer parking lot, and there is even more rigid security for an inner lot.

Steve Chaplin, the embassy’s public affairs officer, told reporters the car belonged to an embassy employee who had returned ″to finish up some work″ after the embassy closed at 5:30 p.m. The bomb went off shortly before 7 p.m.

Diplomatic sources at the compound and an official close to the investigation confirmed the employee was one of the mission’s Marine guards.

Chaplin and the diplomatic sources dismissed speculation the bomb could have been placed in the car once inside the compound.

″Obviously, it was put in the guy’s trunk before he got here,″ one of the diplomats said.

One embassy source said the person who planted the bomb probably expected it to go off in the street rather than at the embassy because he would not have known that the driver planned to return to the embassy after normal working hours.

The explosion came three days after FP-25 claimed responsibility for fatally shooting Gaspar Castelo Branco, the director-general of Portugal’s prison system.

In a Oct. 27, 1984, attempted attack at the embassy, police found and dismantled a handmade mortar launcher with two 60mm shells ready to be fired into the compound.

About a month later, on Nov. 25, four 60mm mortar shells were fired into the compound and damaged three unoccupied cars. A note distributed after the attack said it marked the anniversary of an unsuccessful coup attempt by left- wing extremists on Nov. 25, 1975.

On April 25, 1974, army officers led a coup that ended half a century of right-wing dictatorships. The FP-25 group takes its name from that coup.

Lt. Col. Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho, a hero of the 1974 coup, is among about 70 suspected FP-25 members now being tried in a specially built courtroom in Lisbon. The defendants are accused of involvement in the 1975 coup attempt, and some also are accused of subsequent terrorist attacks.

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