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Madrid car bomb: 43 injured

Spanish prime minister condemns ETA after attack


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A massive car bomb rocks a Spanish convention center.
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Madrid (Spain)

MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- Basque separatists claimed responsibility for a powerful car bomb attack near Madrid's convention center hours before Spain's king and queen and the visiting Mexican president were to inaugurate an international art fair.

CNN's Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman said there were no reported fatalities but police said 43 were hurt by the blast, with 24 of them taken to hospital.

Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz Gallardon told a reporter for CNN sister network CNN+ that most of the injuries -- many caused by flying glass -- were light.

Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso said the ARCO art fair would take place as scheduled, despite what he called a "serious" attack several hundred meters from the main convention center facility where King Juan Carlos, Queen Sofia and Mexican President Vicente Fox were to arrive later in the day.

Alonso said the car was packed with about 66 pounds (30 kilograms) of explosives, although earlier police reported a higher amount.

The blast did heavy damage to the facade of the six-story brick and glass office building housing the French computer company Bull, located across the street from King Juan Carlos Park, and damaged 20 vehicles.

Of the injured, 34 were Bull employees and six were police officers, Alonso said.

After the explosion a plume of white smoke could be been seen rising from the scene of the blast near the convention center, which is in a residential area in the north of the city and near Madrid's airport.

Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero condemned the bombing and told the Basque separatist group ETA that there was no place in politics for terrorism.

"I would like to say to the terrorists of ETA and those who support them that there is no place for them in politics or civil society -- bombs lead only to prison," he told a news conference in Warsaw.

A caller claiming to be with ETA warned of the bombing in phone call to the Basque newspaper Gara shortly before 9 a.m. (0800 GMT), the paper's Web site reported. Gara then warned authorities.

Police were clearing the area when the bomb exploded at 9:30 a.m. With no specific information on where the car bomb was located, they performed a broad sweep of the area, Alonso said.

ETA typically places a warning call ahead of its attacks, and for that reason, the Interior Ministry believes the group was responsible for the bombing.

The interior minister said he did not believe the bombing was in response to the recent arrests of 14 suspected ETA members in the Basque region and two other provinces, but noted it was hard to determine the motive for such attacks.

It was the most serious bomb blast in Madrid since March 11 last year, when 191 people were killed and hundreds injured in bomb attacks on four commuter trains first blamed on ETA but soon found to have been carried out by a group linked to al Qaeda.

Goodman said the fact that there were only light injuries at the scene suggested that ETA had been deterred by a security cordon and police had had time to clear people from the area following the warning.

ETA stands for Euskadi ta Askatasuna, which in the Basque language of Euskara means Basque Homeland and Freedom.

Designated a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union, the group has been blamed for more than 800 deaths since 1968. About 400 ETA members are in prison.

About 2.5 million Basques live in the Pyrenees mountain region along the border between Spain and France -- where their ancestors have lived for 5,000 years.

Another half million live in France. Separatists want to establish a homeland encompassing the three provinces Spain officially recognizes as Basque plus another Spanish province, Navarra, and part of southern France.

CNN Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman contributed to this report


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