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Bombs explode in Spanish resorts

The bomb caused damage to Alicante's Hotel Residencia Bahia
The bomb caused damage to Alicante's Hotel Residencia Bahia

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SPECIAL REPORT

MADRID, Spain -- Ten people, including four policemen, have been injured on Spain's Mediterranean coast in two bomb blasts blamed on Basque separatist group ETA.

The explosions, which state radio said bore the hallmarks of ETA, happened within minutes of each other in Alicante and Benidorm on Tuesday, sparking fears the group may have resumed its targeting of Spain's key tourist sector.

Both resorts were packed with Spanish and foreign tourists.

Police had earlier evacuated the areas after a telephone caller claiming to represent ETA told the Basque newspaper Gara the explosions would take place at 1030 GMT, according to CNN's sister network CNN+.

But CNN+ correspondent Carmen Perez said the bombs exploded 20 minutes early, injuring the police officers who were trying to carry out a controlled explosion and four residents.

Spain's Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar told a news conference: "It's obvious that this is about trying to introduce what we could call the annual quota of fear in Spaniards' summer break, which every year they try to do."

The bombs appear to have been left in first floor rooms at the Hotel Residencia Bahia in Alicante and the Nadal hotel in Benidorm, witnesses and local officials were quoted by The Associated Press as saying.

One bomb was left in a suitcase, the other in a bag, officials said.

The hotels were cleared of guests, but four people living in a house next door to the Alicante hotel were injured, officials told Reuters.

A woman working at Alicante town hall, next-door to the hotel, said a middle floor of the hotel had been destroyed.

The four policeman and one civilian were injured in Benidorm and four civilians in Alicante. The injured include tourists from Russia, Sweden and Britain.

Two of those taken to hospital are in a serious condition, hospital officials were quoted by AP as saying.

Among those injured were a 30-year-old Dutchman who was reported to be in a coma, AP quoted hospital officials as saying. A German citizen, aged 24, was listed in serious condition but doctors said his life was not in danger. Also injured were two Swedish teenagers, two Russian teenagers, a British man and a Spanish woman.

Local television images showed smoke rising from the seafront hotel in Alicante.

ETA, or Euskadi Ta Askatasuna -- which means Basque Homeland and Freedom in the Basque language -- has claimed responsibility or been blamed for more than 800 killings during a 35-year campaign for independence of the Basque region of northern Spain.

The group routinely threatens to harm businesses if they do not give ETA money, which the group then uses to finance future attacks, authorities said.


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