Bombs exploded at three banks in the Argentine capital Wednesday, including two branches of U.S. giant Citibank, killing one security guard and injuring a bomb squad officer, officials said.
It was not clear who was responsible for the bombs, none of which was big enough to cause major damage to the buildings.
“The government is asking the people not to touch any packages and to call the police if they find them. Everything is being investigated,” an Interior Ministry spokesman told Reuters.
It was the third attack this year on Argentine banks, which were widely blamed for contributing to the country’s economic collapse in late 2001 and early 2002. Hundreds of depositors demanded compensation from the banks for lost savings.
The last time banks were targeted by small bombs was during the August visit of International Monetary Fund chief Rodrigo Rato. No one was injured in those incidents.
The first Citibank explosion killed a private security guard who picked up a bag with a bomb before the bank opened to the public. Another device was detonated by police.
Television showed shattered glass and blood stains at the site of the bombing in a middle-class neighborhood, several miles from downtown Buenos Aires.
At the second Citibank branch in a posh shopping area, police detonated two devices and a bomb squad officer was injured while protecting a woman who broke through the police cordon, federal police said.
Nearby, a third explosion hit Argentine bank Banco Galicia but a bank official said there were no injuries.
The blasts took place within around two hours of each other. One of the bombs detonated by police was described by witnesses as a steel tube with nails.
Banks blamed for economic woes
Citigroup said it was “shocked and saddened” and was cooperating with the investigation, according to spokeswoman Lula Rodriguez in Miami.
In the wake of Argentina’s economic collapse, many blamed both foreign and local banks for their country’s woes, including a freeze on their savings. Banks put steel plates on their facades to protect them from protesters wielding pipes and throwing rocks.
But that ire had waned as the economy recovered and people got back the bulk of their money. Most banks had taken down their barriers and returned to normal operations.
Wednesday’s bombs coincided with the visits of two foreign heads of state and a large foreign media presence. Chinese President Hu Jintao was in Buenos Aires on a two-day state visit, while the king and queen of Spain were attending a language conference in Rosario, 250 miles north of Buenos Aires.
Financial markets had no negative reaction to the blasts.