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Car Bomb Kills 2, Wounds Dozens in Spain - 2002-08-05

A car bomb exploded Sunday evening in a Spanish resort town near the Mediterranean coast, killing a 6-year-old girl and a 57-year old man, and injuring at least 40 people. Spanish authorities blame the violent Basque separatist group, ETA.

It was just another placid, warm summer evening, in the resort town of Santa Pola, in the eastern Spanish province of Alicante, until an automobile loaded with an estimated 25 to 40 kilograms of explosives blew up. The car bomb was placed near a bus stop and the barracks of the paramilitary civil guard police. The 6-year-old who died was the daughter of a policeman. The families of civil guard members are often lodged in housing attached to their barracks. The 57-year-old man was among a group of people waiting for a bus.

Spain's Interior Minister, Angel Acebes, who rushed to the scene of the bombing, said the car bomb had been placed near the lodgings of the civil guard in order to cause as many casualties as possible. Among the injured were civil guardsmen, members of their families, passersby and people standing at the bus stop. Mr. Acebes blamed the violent Basque separatist group ETA, which has set off 27 car bombs since January 2001. Contrary to the practice in previous attacks, no warning was given.

The blast was so violent that it cut off electricity in the town, whose year-round population is 20-thousand, but which swells by over one hundred thousand during the summer months. The buildings near the barracks suffered considerable damage and over 150 people have been lodged in hotels because their homes were left uninhabitable.

ETA's last killing was in March, when a Socialist politician was shot in a bar in the Basque town of Orio. ETA set off four car bombs in June to coincide with a European Union summit hosted by Spain in Seville, but there were no fatalities.

ETA has been branded a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States. It has killed over 800 people in its more than 30-year campaign to carve out an independent Basque state in southern France and northern Spain.