Explosions Rock Madrid; At Least Nine People Injured
MADRID, Spain (AP) _ A car bomb and explosions from rockets fired at the Defense Ministry shook the Spanish capital today, injuring at least nine people and filling the streets with smoke, police said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but police said they suspected ETA, the Basque separatist group fighting for automony for the Basque region of northern Spain.
Government spokesman Manuel Moles said 12 rockets were fired at the Ministry of Defense. The preliminary investigation showed that six struck the facade, two hit parked cars, two exploded against walls, one exploded against a wall and the shrapnel hit a passing bus, and the 12th was fired but did not explode, Moles said.
One of the injured was Vice-Admiral Carlos Vila Miranda, deputy director of personnel in the Ministry of Defense, who was hit by flying debris when a rocket struck his office, Moles said.
No details were available immediately on the identities of the other injured people. It also was not known whether they were injured by the car bomb or the rockets.
Moles said the rockets were fired by remote control about one-quarter mile across the Paseo de la Castellana, Madrid’s main north-south artery.
Police spokesman Daniel Herrero said the rockets apparently were aimed at the fourth-floor office of Defense Minister Narcis Serra.
The car carrying the rockets, a sedan, caught fired and exploded at 10:28 a.m., police said.
About 15 minutes later, a car bomb exploded near the wrecked sedan, police said. Both cars were parked in Manuel de Falla Street in an affluent neighborhood in northern Madrid.
Moles said the second explosion was believed intended to injure police officers who gathered to investigate the rocket blasts.
Police initially said they believed bombs had been planted in both cars.
Initial radio reports said police had found cars loaded with explosives parked near the residence of France’s ambassador in Madrid, Francis Guttman. But police said later these reports were unfounded.
Police cut off streets and prohibited access to the area for fear of further blasts.
A week ago, 10 members of the paramilitary civil guard were killed when a car bomb exploded in the same area of northern Madrid. The device, set off by remote control, exploded as a bus carrying at least 40 civil guard trainees passed by.
On Saturday, France deported to Spain a suspected ETA member reported to have ties to ETA’s ″Spain-Commando,″ which set off last week’s car bomb.
Radio reports said today’s explosions might have come in response to the deportation of ETA member Jose Manuel Varona Lopez.
His expulsion marked the first time France handed over a Basque exile to Spanish police without a warrant from Interpol, the international police agency headquartered outside Paris.
ETA has claimed responsibility for the deaths of 26 people in Spain so far this year in its campaign to secure independence for the three-province northern Basque country. Four suspected ETA members have also died in confrontations with police.
Since 1968 ETA has claimed responsibility for the deaths of more than 550 police, paramilitary civil guards and military officers.
ETA has called on the government in Madrid to withdraw all Spanish police and civil guards from the Basque region and to place Spanish military units stationed there under Basque authority.
In an interview Sunday on Radio Monte Carlo, French Foreign Minister Jean Bernard Raimond said further expulsions of suspected ETA members living in France were expected.
Raimond is scheduled to travel to Madrid this week to discuss the status of Basque political refugees in France with his Spanish counterpart, Francisco Fernandez Ordonez.
Since 1984, France has expelled 37 suspected ETA members.
Many Basques acquired political refugee status in France during the waning years of the authoritarian regime of Gen. Francisco Franco.
Two years after Franco’s death, in 1975, Spain offered a general amnesty to ETA members who were not suspected of so-called ″blood crimes″ or assassinations. Several hundred Spanish Basques chose to remain in France.