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Europe

ETA Bombs Television Station in Northern Spain

The Basque separatist group ETA, under pressure after the arrests of its top leaders in 2008, ended the year by bombing the headquarters of a regional broadcasting network.

ETA symbol.

The Basque separatist group ETA has fought fourty years for independence

A car bomb exploded Wednesday in front of the Basque public broadcaster EITB in the northern Spanish city of Bilbao following a warning call from the armed separatist group ETA.

According to the Associated Press, EITB, which managed to stay on air despite the explosion at its headquarters in central Bilbao city, said in its early afternoon news report that the blast caused significant damage and one person was injured.

Police said the bomb exploded shortly after 11 AM local time. The Basque separatist group called in a warning one hour before the explosion, allowing police to evacuate the building and cordon off the area.

Spain's state-run television station broadcast footage showing the explosion. After a flash of fire, the blast blew out dozens of windows on the glass facade of the six-story building.

Four decades of terrorism

Media groups have frequently been targets of ETA, which is blamed for the deaths of 825 people in its 40-year campaign for an independent Basque homeland comprising parts of northern Spain and south western France.

Both the European Union and the United States consider it a terrorist group.

Demonstration gegen die ETA in Madrid

In Jan. 2007, hundreds protested for peace in Madrid after ETA attacks killed two.

ETA has habitually staged attacks at the end of the year, most recently on December 30, 2006, when it bombed a car parked at Madrid airport, killing two Ecuadoran men who were sleeping in their cars.

That attack torpedoed tentative peace talks with the Socialist government Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. ETA then formally called off a 15-month-old ceasefire in June, 2007.

Zapatero condemned Wednesday's bombing, saying "ETA can stage attacks, but it will lose all the battles."

Spain and France step up crack downs

ETA is blamed for the deaths of four people this year, including a municipal councillor killed two days before general elections in March and a Basque businessman who was gunned down in the street early this month.

But it has been hard hit this year by police operations in both Spain and France. The two countries have stepped up cooperation to crack down on ETA since a special accord was signed in January 2008 allowing Spanish agents to operate in south western France.

"After all the blows it has suffered this year," Wednesday's attack "is a way of saying 'we are still here,'" said one Basque analyst, Gorka Landaburu, the director of the weekly newspaper "Cambio 16."

He said the attack was likely aimed at moderate Basque nationalists, who support greater autonomy for the Basque region but not full independence.

"The Basque television ... is linked to the Basque government and the (moderate) Basque Nationalist Party, which has governed the region for the past 25 years.

"Today, young ETA members no longer have any scruples about attacking Basque moderate nationalism," he told AFP wire service.

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