Dozens hurt by car bomb blast in Madrid

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The Independent Online

A car bomb ripped through a busy residential part of Madrid during yesterday morning's rush hour, injuring up to 100 people, four seriously.

The bomb, 25kg of explosives placed in a double-parked car, was detonated by remote control, destroying scores of vehicles and the facades of several offices and apartment blocks.

Those injured reportedly include an Englishwoman said to have lost an eye, a woman whose body was sprayed with metal fragments and her three-year-old daughter whose eyelids were singed.

One resident said the force of the blast was so great that her cup of morning coffee was blown out of her hand.

The attack, blamed on the Basque separatist group Eta, was apparently aimed at Juan Junquera, a senior government scientist and former defence ministry official, who was passing in his chauffeur-driven car when the device was detonated. Mr Junquera escaped with slight injuries.

Juan Cotino, the city's police chief, who was being interviewed on television when the attack happened, said: "I'm sure this is the work of the command cell that police believe is based in Madrid and has the ability to act at any moment."

He said it was possible that the suspects were also responsible for placing a huge bomb in central Madrid on 12 October, near where King Juan Carlos, Queen Sofia and the Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar, where watching a military parade.

The Interior Minister, Mariano Rajoy, said: "If things had occurred differently we could be mourning the deaths of many innocent people, which demonstrates once again ... Eta's ... brutality, savagery and total lack of respect for people's lives."

Shortly after the blast, police detained a man and a woman carrying rucksacks that contained pistols and explosives, plus wigs and other devices to change their appearance.

The pair were apparently fleeing the scene in a stolen car with false plates that police subsequently blew up in a controlled explosion.

The area where the explosion happened is on the north-eastern fringes of the city centre. It contains the headquarters of several banks and international companies, and is home to many military officials. Some families were moved from their homes until the authorities cleared the debris and made the buildings safe. Shop owners, whose windows were in smithereens, put down their shutters for the day.

Police were able to make the arrests because a witness followed the suspects in his own vehicle and tipped off police.