Fears of further bomb attacks on Spanish resorts

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The Independent Online

As holidaymakers flocked to southern Spanish beaches to bask in yesterday's scorching sunshine, police and tour operators feared that Eta, the Basque separatist group, might place more bombs to scare tourists away and damage Spain's mighty tourist industry.

As holidaymakers flocked to southern Spanish beaches to bask in yesterday's scorching sunshine, police and tour operators feared that Eta, the Basque separatist group, might place more bombs to scare tourists away and damage Spain's mighty tourist industry.

Five bombs have exploded throughout Spain in the space of 36 hours during the European Union's weekend summit in Seville; three of them went off at hotels in Fuengirola, Marbella and Mijas, resorts popular with British holidaymakers. The actions signal the dramatic onset of Eta's summer terror campaign.

A bomb also damaged a branch of the Spanish department store El Corte Ingles in the north-eastern city of Zaragoza, and another devastated an area full of regional government ministries in the northern port of Santander. Warnings were given ahead of all five blasts, suggesting that the intention was to damage symbols of Spanish industry and power rather than to maim or to kill.

However, six people were injured in Friday's blast in Fuengirola, where police were not able to evacuate people in time. Mario Gabriel, a 32-year-old Briton who was hit by shrapnel in the lung, remained seriously ill in hospital after undergoing life-saving surgery.

Eta warned last week that it had planned "a show of force" throughout Spain, to coincide with the summit, against "the states of Europe". The bombings showed that, despite recent arrests and seizures of explosives, Eta can still operate throughout the country, something the Spanish government has downplayed as the summit draws to a close.

"We must not overestimate the significance of [Eta's] ability to plant devices in different spots," said Pio Cabanillas, a government spokesman. "Eta is staging its presence in a way that shows its weakness. These actions are relatively easy to carry out and indicate desperation."

Last year Eta warned tourists to stay away from Spain and set off explosions in beach resorts near Barcelona. They also hit Malaga airport, the entry point for a million holidaymakers every year, causing long delays.

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