A car bomb exploded in a Madrid business park Wednesday after a warning call purportedly from the Basque separatist group ETA, injuring at least 43 people, officials said, in the worst blast in the Spanish capital since last year’s terrorist attack on commuter trains.
Police did not have time after the warning call to the Basque newspaper Gara to fully cordon off the area or evacuate workers and visitors at a sprawling convention center nearby, where King Juan Carlos was to meet the Mexico President Vicente Fox later in the day.
The explosion came hours after police arrested 14 suspected members of ETA and a week after Spain’s Parliament overwhelmingly rejected a plan giving the Basque region virtual independence.
The bomb exploded at about 9:30 a.m., shattering thick panes of glass in buildings and damaging cars. It detonated near a plaza with a large bust of the king’s late father, Juan de Borbon, and outside a building housing the French computer manufacturer Bull.
Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso said the bomb packed an estimated 66 pounds of explosives. It was the worst blast in Spain’s capital since the March 11 train bombings, which killed 191 people and were claimed by militants saying they acted on behalf of al-Qaida.
A witness identified only as Daniel told CNN+ television that the bomb shook his car as he drove about 100 yards away from the blast site.
“It was an extremely powerful explosion,” he said. “The car shook as if something had fallen on top of it.”
Another witness, Bull communication director Manuel Amenteros, was in a first-floor office about 20 yards from the bomb when it exploded. He said he was thrown to the ground and saw colleagues sprayed with pieces of flying glass.
“What saved me — from the force of the blast and from flying glass shards — was my computer,” he told The Associated Press.
The injured suffered bruises, cuts from flying glass and damaged eardrums, said Javier Ayuso, spokesman for the Madrid emergency medical service. No one was seriously hurt, he said.
King Juan Carlos was scheduled to open an art show at the convention center later Wednesday, accompanied by Fox. Authorities said the ceremony would still be held.
'No place in political... life'
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero denounced the bombing.
“ETA and those who support it have no place in political or civil life. Bombs lead only to jail,” he said during a visit to Poland.
ETA is blamed for more than 800 deaths since the late 1960s in a campaign of bombings and shootings aimed at creating an independent Basque homeland in land straddling northern Spain and southwest France.
The Interior Ministry said 14 ETA suspects were arrested Tuesday in all three Basque provinces plus areas in northern, eastern and southern Spain.
The suspects were involved in recruiting new members, supporting existing commandos and gathering information on potential targets for attack, the ministry said in a statement.
ETA detonated a small bomb in a Mediterranean resort hotel Jan. 30, two days before the vote against broader autonomy. One person was slightly injured.
The plan, proposed by the Basque regional parliament, calls for Spain to accept “shared sovereignty” over the three-province Basque region, across the Pyrenees mountains from southwest France. That plan was contingent on the absence of ETA violence.
Playing to nationalist angerJuan Jose Ibarretxe, the region’s president, responded to the vote by calling early elections for April 17, hoping to capitalize on Basque nationalist anger.
The ETA’s political wing, Batasuna, was outlawed in 2003 and is not allowed to field candidates. The national government rejects all appeals for its reinstatement.
ETA carried out a string of small bombings in northern resort towns over the summer. It also detonated seven bombs around Spain on Dec. 6 — the anniversary of Spain’s 1978 constitution, which set up the system of regional autonomy that ETA abhors as insufficient.