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ETA ferry bomb plot uncovered

ETA: Basque Homeland and Freedom in the Basque Language  

MADRID, Spain -- Police who captured suspected guerrillas from the Basque separatist group ETA say they believe the men were planning to bomb a passenger ferry bound for the UK.

The group intended to drive a car bomb aboard the ferry bound for Plymouth in south-west Britain, and detonate it while the ferry was still in the Spanish port of Santander in the Basque region, the Spanish press reported, quoting judicial and police sources.

Spain's El Pais newspaper reported the militants planned to warn authorities to evacuate the ferry Val de Loire before the explosion. The boat carries up to 600 cars and between 1,600 to 2,400 passengers.

Another newspaper -- La Vanguardia -- said court sources revealed a suspected ETA activist captured last week told the authorities the ferry was a possible target for violence.

A court aide told Reuters a ferry schedule was found among the suspect's possessions.

graphic Basque conflict: Violence in Spain

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El Pais newspaper described the violence as part of a larger campaign -- not intended to create "civilian victims" -- across northern Spain during the coming tourist season.

ETA also planned to target two hotels and newspaper El Diario de Burgos as part of its assault on the media it sees as sympathetic to the Spanish central government, Reuters reported.

Earlier this year the armed group had warned tourists to avoid Spain after setting off two bombs at holiday resorts.

On Monday a judge ruled the suspected ETA member and another man be held in jail on charges of a June car bombing in the city of Logrono that caused severe damage and left several civilians with minor injuries.

The two were among seven suspects arrested in a crackdown against ETA last week, but five of them were released due to lack of evidence. One suspect remained under investigation in a separate case, Reuters said.

ETA has been blamed for 800 killings during its 33-year independence campaign for an autonomous Basque state carved out of northern Spain and south-western France.

The Basque country, a semi-autonomous region in northern Spain, is home to 2.2 million of Spain's 40-million-strong population.

• Basque Nationalist Party

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