Bomb explodes at rail station in Spain's Basque region, ETA supporters blamed

A bomb blamed on supporters of the Basque separatist group ETA exploded near the city of Bilbao on Monday, seriously damaging a railway station and causing a fire that took several hours to extinguish.

The bomb exploded about half an hour after midnight (2330GMT) in the industrial Basque town of Barakaldo. The Basque Interior Ministry said investigators specializing in explosives determined the attack was the latest in a wave of violence waged in recent months by supporters of ETA, but not the work of ETA itself.

The Basque regional interior minister, Javier Balza, had earlier raised the possibility that the bombing was staged by ETA, which shocked Spain with a Dec. 30 car bombing in Madrid that killed two people and ended a 9-month cease-fire which it had called permanent.

But the ministry said later that Monday's explosion came from a homemade explosive device of the kind habitually used in the street violence waged by pro-ETA youths. They tend to target banks, buses, post offices and other public property.

On Sunday, police detained 18 fugitive members of an outlawed Basque youth group which the Supreme Court ruled last month is a terrorist organization because of its alleged links to ETA.

Spanish National Radio suggested Monday's bombing might be in reprisal for those arrests, reports AP.

The explosion set off a fire inside the railway station, which handles commuter trains. Firefighters worked for several hours to extinguish the blaze and rail service was halted until it was put out, Basque police said.

The explosion blew out doors and windows and sent them flying 10 meters (yards) from the building, Barakaldo Mayor Tontxu Rodriguez said, according to the Internet edition of the newspaper El Pais. He said it was the third time the station had been attacked.

"But this is not the path to peace and freedom. All this does is to disrupt the everyday lives of citizens," the paper quoted Rodriguez as saying.

ETA's attack last month at Madrid airport prompted the government to halt plans for negotiations with ETA, snuffing out what had been seen as the best hope in years for an end to decades of separatist violence that have claimed more than 800 lives.

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