ETA militants arrested after Madrid blast

The Basque separatist group ETA reportedly claimed responsibility for a car bomb that exploded outside a Madrid convention center Feb. 9, injuring at least 40. The blast went off hours before Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia were to arrive there to preside over the opening of an arts fair with Mexico's visiting President Vicente Fox. In the aftermath of the blast, police arrested 14 suspected ETA militants in coordinated raids across Spain. (Electric New Paper, Singapore, Feb. 11)

This would appear to dash hopes for a peace process, which the ETA had agreed to in principle in a communique last month calling for "political dialogue" and "an end to weapons in Basque politics." Although Spain claims ETA--one of the official US State Department "terrorist organizations"--has killed some 800 people since it took up arms in 1968, its last fatal attack was in May 2003. (AFP, Jan. 16) Still, the group has carried out 26 attacks (mostly without victims) since its leader Mikel Antza was arrested in France Oct. 3. (El Pais, Feb. 10)

An upsurge of ETA violence would not serve Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero's efforts to decouple Spain from Washington's War on Terrorism...

See our last blog post on the Basque situation.