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More separatist violence precedes Guggenheim opening

October 17, 1997
Web posted at: 10:14 a.m. EDT (1414 GMT)

BILBAO, Spain (CNN) -- A small explosion jolted an office building Friday in the Spanish port city of Bilbao on the eve of the grand opening of its new Guggenheim museum, and one day after protesters urged an end to separatist violence in the Basque region.

No one was injured in the blast, which police said was triggered by Basque ETA separatists who earlier this week tried to attack the museum before the Saturday inauguration by Spain's king and queen.

The ETA warned nationalist Egin radio about Friday's explosive device before it went off. The radio station contacted police.

On Thursday, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators marched through Bilbao demanding peace in the troubled Basque region and protesting the slaying of a police officer by suspected Basque separatists.

Thousands protest in the streets
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The policeman, Jose Maria Aguirre, was shot Monday and later died, when he interrupted suspected ETA guerrillas -- posing as gardeners -- as they tried to set up remote-controlled grenades in a giant plant sculpture in front of the museum.

Agirre's was the 12th killing attributed to ETA so far this year. The organization, whose initials stand for Basque Homeland and Liberty, has killed nearly 800 people since its members took up arms in 1968 for the cause of independence.

Representatives of the Guggenheim, designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, have said the museum will open on schedule despite this week's attacks.

The museum, a swirling mass of titanium, stone and glass, is to be the centerpiece of Bilbao's $5 billion urban renewal plan -- the symbol of the city's commitment to peace.

Spanish King Juan Carlos, who has been targeted for assassination by the Basque separatist group in the past, plans to attend the opening ceremony along with hundreds of other dignitaries.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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