Eta targets Spain's Olympic bid with series of bombings

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The Independent Online

Firebombs were hurled at government offices and a radio station in two Basque towns yesterday, hours after a car bomb exploded at a sports stadium in Madrid, and a week after Eta armed separatists had called a partial truce.

Firebombs were hurled at government offices and a radio station in two Basque towns yesterday, hours after a car bomb exploded at a sports stadium in Madrid, and a week after Eta armed separatists had called a partial truce.

The violence caused damage but no serious injuries. The attacks coincided with the swearing-in of the Basque country's nationalist Prime Minister, Juan Jose Ibarretxe, in historic Guernica, and appear intended to press Mr Ibarretxe, and the government in Madrid, to start talks over greater Basque autonomy.

Molotov cocktails were flung at offices of the Madrid government in the Basque capital, Vitoria, and in San Sebastian, where a radio station was also firebombed early yesterday.

On Saturday evening, Eta activists targeted the same neighbourhood of Madrid for the third time this year, planting a 20lb car bomb outside the city's track and field sports stadium, symbol of the capital's Olympic bid. The Peineta stadium was undamaged, and dozens of construction workers sprucing it up were evacuated after an Eta warning.

The blasts have badly undermined Madrid's campaign to host the 2012 games. Politicians said that was the intention.

"I am sure the members of the International Olympic Committee will not be influenced by this Eta bomb, which seeks to damage our candidature," Madrid's Mayor, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon, said at the scene. "Security is guaranteed. Eta seeks to give an impression of insecurity, but that's not the case."

Eta announced a week ago that it would halt armed attacks on elected politicians but a source said yesterday: "They planned to continue their campaign against tourism and Spanish economic interests, and Madrid 2012 fulfilled both conditions." International Olympic officials decide within two weeks who will host the Games.

Mr Ibarretxe, whose Basque Nationalist Party narrowly won regional elections in April, takes charge tomorrow of a multiparty government that includes pro-Eta radicals. Eta, which is now weakened and demoralised, has killed no one for more than two years and has signalled it wants talks.

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