Spanish Police Stop Van with Explosives
Sunday, February 29, 2004; 8:43 AM
MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish police intercepted a van on
Sunday carrying more than 1,100 lbs of explosives, which they
believe Basque separatist guerrilla group ETA planned to use
for a devastating attack in Madrid, officials said.
The police operation, which Interior Minister Angel Acebes
said averted a possible "massacre" in the Spanish capital, came
two weeks before a general election and 11 days after ETA
declared a partial cease-fire limited to the northeastern
region of Catalonia.
Acebes said the van, which carried a timing device, would
have been used as a truck bomb. It was one of the biggest loads
of explosives ETA has attempted to use in recent times, he
Two suspected ETA members were arrested in the
early-morning operation in Cuenca province, 80 miles southeast
of Madrid, Acebes said told a news conference.
"The magnificent efficiency of the Civil Guard (police) has
avoided, without question, a massacre," Acebes said.
"More than 500 kgs of explosives ... was a cargo that would
have caused an explosion with very serious consequences," he
If the bomb had gone off, Acebes said, it would have caused
a 115 foot crater, serious damage in a 328 foot radius and
could have hurt people one mile away.
The van carrying the explosives had been stolen in France
in November and carried false registration plates, officials
ETA, listed as a terrorist organization by the United
States and the European Union, has killed nearly 850 people
since 1968 in a campaign for an independent state in northern
Spain and southwestern France.
The center-right Popular Party government has taken a hard
line against ETA and the organization has been weakened in
recent months by scores of arrests both in Spain and France.
ETA caused a shock in the middle of Spain's election
campaign by announcing a truce limited to the Catalonia region.
The partial truce was condemned by the major political parties.
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