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Car bomb found in ETA swoop

Police lead away a suspect in the town of Zizurkil
Police lead away a suspect in the town of Zizurkil  

MADRID, Spain -- Spanish police who arrested eight suspected ETA separatists have also discovered a car bomb primed for use.

Police seized 160 kg (350 lb) of explosives, numerous grenades, several rifles and abundant electronic material in a major offensive against the outlawed armed separatist group.

The Basque regional government's Interior Minister Javier Balza said: "The car was stolen two months ago...and judging by how it was primed, it was ready for use in the next few days."

The arrests were made hours before anti-ETA demonstrations at midday (1000 GMT) on Wednesday across the Basque Country.

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The demonstrations followed the death of an elderly woman in a bomb blast on Monday that also blinded her 16-month-old grandson.

The blast in the coastal resort of San Sebastian was triggered when the toddler began playing with a booby-trapped toy car his aunt had found in the bar-restaurant where she worked.

A government minister attributed the blast, which has caused revulsion across Spain, to ETA youth groups.

Spanish national radio reported that the eight arrested are being held on suspicion of being members of the Basque separatist group.

A spokesman for the Basque regional government said on Wednesday: "We confirm there is a major operation against ETA in progress. "

The 16-month-old child lost his eyes in the explosion and was still in intensive care on Wednesday. He also suffered brain damage and a mutilated hand as a result of the blast, as well as severe facial burns.

The injured boy, identified only as Jokin G.C., was said by health officials to be on a life-support machine and "in very serious condition" at San Sebastian's Donostia Hospital following nine hours of surgery.

He and his family were visited in hospital on Tuesday by Basque President Juan Jose Ibarretxe and the regional government's security advisor Mikel Legarda.

Spanish Interior Minister Mariano Rajoy said he believed the bomb was discarded by youth ETA members following an illegal protest on Saturday.

"Evidence from the Interior Ministry suggests this was a classic example of 'kale borroka'," Rajoy told Reuters, referring to a particular type of street-violence used by young ETA supporters.

ETA claimed responsibility in a telephone warning for a car bomb left outside a hotel in the Mediterranean resort of Salou on Saturday. The warning allowed police to evacuate hundreds of tourists and no one was seriously hurt.

ETA usually targets policemen, military personnel or politicians, although the group have recently been carrying out bomb attacks on holiday resorts in an attempt to damage Spain's tourist industry.

At least 800 people have been killed by ETA in its 30 year campaign of bombings and shootings to back its demands for an independent Basque state.

• Basque Country
• Spanish government

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