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Two bombs explode in Spain

By CNN Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman

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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- Two small bombs exploded in succession in two northern Spanish cities Thursday, and the second blast slightly injured a 78-year-old man, government officials told CNN.

The first bomb exploded about 6:10 p.m. (12:10 p.m. ET) in Santander, and the second bomb exploded about 10 minutes later in Gijon.

The two cities are about 200 kilometers (about 125 miles) apart on Spain's northern Atlantic coast.

The Basque newspaper Gara, which often receives calls in the name of the Basque separatist group ETA, told authorities it had received a call warning that two bombs were about to explode in the northern city of Santander, a Ministry of Interior spokesman told CNN.

But instead, there was only one bomb in Santander, located under a bush.

The other device exploded, to the surprise of authorities, in Gijon, on a beach near a restaurant, according to the Interior Ministry spokesman -- who works with the central government's chief representative in the northern region of Asturias, where Gijon is located -- and according to an Interior Ministry statement issued in Madrid.

The spokesman said it was not immediately clear if the caller to Gara newspaper had claimed responsibility in the name of ETA.

ETA, which has not been blamed for any fatal attacks in more than a year, has for decades targeted Spain's lucrative tourist industry, which currently is in full swing during the traditional August vacations.

The ruling Socialist Party blamed ETA for the attacks Thursday, saying in a written statement that it "causes useless violence and pain" and that "the ETA terrorists will never achieve their objectives through violence and crime."

The Interior Ministry statement did not, however, mention ETA. It condemned the attacks against vacationers and urged people to remain calm.

Thursday's explosions come on the heels of a series of incidents in recent days that some analysts said signify the Basque separatist group could be returning to the offensive.

ETA is blamed for more than 810 deaths since 1968 in a campaign for Basque independence. The United States and the European Union list ETA as a terrorist group.

Last Saturday, two small bombs exploded in smaller beach towns, Ribadesella and San Vicente de la Barquera, located respectively in the regions of Asturias and Cantabria, the same regions where the larger cities of Santander and Gijon were targeted on Thursday.

On Wednesday, clear across Spain in Tarragona province on the Mediterranean coast, a beach was cleared in Sant Carles de la Rapita after a call warned of a bomb on a beach, which had received two additional bomb warnings since Sunday.

No bombs were found in that town, Mayor Miguel Alonso told CNN on Wednesday.

Thursday, authorities announced the arrest of a 23-year-old man accused of making the hoax calls to officials and to the Gara newspaper in the name of ETA, a Civil Guard spokeswoman told CNN.

The man, from a Madrid suburb, was on vacation in an area near Sant Carles de la Rapita and allegedly made the false warning calls from his cell phone, the spokeswoman said.


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