Spain takes hard line on terror

The Spanish government yesterday announced that security is being stepped upalong the Costa Dorada around Barcelona and Tarragona following the weekend bombs in which 30 Britons were injured.

The Spanish government is expected to adopt tough new anti-terrorist measures this week. Miguel Angel Rodriguez, the secretary of state for communications, refused to give details, but said that an announcement would be made later this week.

In the latest Eta summer bombing campaign, 14 bombs have been placed in areas frequented by foreign tourists since 9 July.

Police are searching for two men who were seen acting suspiciously near the Hotel Augustus in Crambils on Sunday evening. Five hundred guests, mostly German and Dutch, were evacuated from the hotel before police found and defused the small packet containing around 500g of explosive material and a timing device hidden in a window.

Of the 34 people injured in the blast at Reus Airport on Saturday evening, 12 were still in hospital yesterday.

Police suspect that a cleaner, who was the most seriously injured, could have triggered the airport bomb prematurely when she emptied a waste bin in the bar in the departure area where the bomb had been hidden.

A telephone call to a Basque newspaper warned that the bomb had been timed to explode between 8 and 8.30pm. Police had not had time to evacuate the crowded airport terminal when the bomb went off 20 minutes early. The metal waste bin shattered into hundreds of pieces, scattering fragments which caused shrapnel injuries to the victims. Condemnation of the latest Eta bombing campaign, which is similar to ones inflicted on the Spanish Costas every summer for almost a decade, has been universal

Eta is attempting to damage the Spanish economy by targeting its vital tourist industry. More than 40 million tourists visit Spain each year, four and a half million of them from Britain.

However, Costa Dorada hoteliers appeared yesterday to be more worried about the threat from terrorist bombs than their clients. The beaches were crowded as normal, and visitors had to search Salou beach for space on which to spread their towels. Most hotels in the area are full to capacity, with few cancellations from tourists.

The Foreign Office said yesterday that it was modifying its advice to tourists in Spain after the events of last weekend, but was not clear what the new advice would be.

"The final wording of our advice is still being worked on, but we are certainly not telling people not to go to Spain," aspokesman said. "Obviously, people planning a Spanish holiday must bear in mind what's been happening."

"There have been occasions, in other areas, when we have advised people against travelling. But in this case we are asking people to be vigilant and use common sense."

The advice is prepared by the Foreign Office's travel advice bureau which is attached to the consular division.

The bureau liaises with consulate or embassy officials in the area concerned, as well as Foreign Office officials, before finalising the wording of advice bulletins.

The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) is closely monitoring the advice and will pass it on to tour operators and travel agents.

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