Surge in Eta bombing campaign feared


THE COSTA del Sol resort of Torremolinos was shaken by a 1kg bomb yesterday in an incident which, although small in itself, has important implications for the Spanish tourist economy and the fight against Eta.

The device exploded close to a beach bar but caused no damage. Later a scrap metal collector uncovered a sports bag hidden in a ditch nearby which contained a 9mm parabellum pistol as well as ammunition, explosives, fuses and detonators.

Spanish interior minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said he had no doubt that the bombing was the work of Eta and the fact that the bag contained material to make a bomb showed further attacks were planned.

The lack of damage in yesterday's attack does not mean the authorities are not seriously worried about the resurgence of Eta's annual summer beach bomb campaign, which began in 1979. Attacks are not meant to kill or maim, but rather to frighten visitors and harm Spain's valuable tourist industry.

The Torremolinos bomb is the fifth of these small explosive devices so far this summer, but the first in an important tourist resort. Four similar bombs were detonated earlier this month on a beach and on a golf course in the north of Spain. Again no one was hurt and there was only minimal damage.

Last week security forces made nine arrests of Eta suspects, including Arkaitz Goikoetxea, the head of the Vizcaya Commando, one of Eta's most dangerous gangs. It is believed to have been responsible for half a dozen attacks in the north of Spain so far this year, one of them killing a Civil Guard officer in the Basque town of Leguitano. Two other wanted Etarras have been detained in France.

Seven of the nine detainees were remanded in custody. Under interrogation they revealed many of their future plans including one to assassinate a leading judge and a senator and to kidnap and murder a Basque town councillor.

Police were also led to three hiding places containing weapons, ammunition, explosives and, tranquillisers. They also uncovered plans for Goikoetxea and other Eta leaders to meet in Granada in August to plan their strategy and pinpoint targets including a high-speed rail link.