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Mystery Spain blast kills woman

Damaged car
Basque police examine the car damaged in an explosion  


MADRID, Spain -- Basque police are investigating the cause of an explosion in a remote-controlled toy which killed a woman and blinded her grandson.

A 62-year-old woman, named as Maria Francisca Araunzetamurgil, died after her 16-month-old grandson started playing with the remote-control toy vehicle after having carried it from a bar-restaurant to her car in the coastal resort of San Sebastian on Monday.

The boy was reported to be in serious condition with facial burns and eye injuries and underwent emergency surgery in a San Sebastian hospital.

An official told Spanish state radio the boy had suffered brain damage and lost sight in both eyes, Reuters reported.

His four-year-old brother was slightly injured in the explosion which happened at 10.45 a.m. (0845 GMT) in the northern town. The children's mother and aunt, who were also in the car, were said to be unhurt.

Early reports blamed the armed Basque separatist group ETA, which has been responsible for a number of attacks in San Sebastian.

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Nine hours after the explosion, the regional Basque government said explosives, probably gunpowder, had been concealed inside the toy, Reuters reported.

The toy had been left in the lavatory of the bar-restaurant, the agency added.

The government statement said the explosives had been primed to blow up when it was switched on.

It said: "The toy, a small electric car, had been tampered with and implanted with a metal receptacle with a quantity of explosive, probably gunpowder.

"Although the charge was tiny it was enough to cause serious injuries to the boy and the death of the woman when a splinter from the cylinder that contained the explosive struck an artery."

But the statement added that the type of device and the fact it had been left in a lavatory of a bar with no specific target "do not point necessarily towards the groups that recently have promoted violence and terrorism in the Basque region," it said.

ETA usually targets politicians and members of Spain's security forces with car bombs and shootings.

But Javier Rojo, leader of the Socialist Party in the Basque Country, blamed ETA for Monday's blast and called it "a horrendous terrorist attack," Reuters said.

"Everything points to ETA. Only ETA sets off bombs in this country," a police spokesman told Reuters.

"These are just ordinary people and they didn't belong to any group that could be the target of (ETA) violence."

The toy had been abandoned in the restaurant and bar where the family had just eaten and was given to the boy by the bar owner.

The boys' aunt told police that two toys -- the miniature car and a stuffed giraffe -- were left at her bar-restaurant during the weekend and that she had given them to her nephews.

ETA has been linked to Saturday's car bomb in the coastal resort of Salou that forced an evacuation of apartments and hotels and slightly injured 13 people.

That blast had been preceded by a warning call from someone claiming to be speaking on behalf of ETA.

More than 800 people, including many British and Italian tourists, were evacuated after police received the warning, police said.

The car which was detonated was loaded with about 110 pounds of dynamite, police said.

Spain is one of the world's top three tourist destinations, along with France and the United States.

Earlier this year, ETA warned tourists to stay away from Spain, as it would be targeting popular destinations. So far, it is blamed for more than half a dozen blasts in tourist areas.

The UK Foreign Office on Saturday warned British tourists in Spain to be "aware that future attacks may not carry warnings and bombs may explode prematurely."

Spain is Britain's top tourist destination, with about 12 million people heading for the country each year.

ETA, whose name stands for Basque Homeland and Liberty, has been fighting to win independence for Basque regions in northern Spain and southwestern France for 33 years.

It has killed 35 people since January 2000, including 12 so far this year, and more than 800 people since 1968.






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