A car bomb ripped through a parking lot at a Spanish university on Thursday, injuring 17 people and sparking strong criticism of the Basque separatist group ETA, which was blamed for the attack.
Staff at the University of Navarra in Pamplona described how the initial blast at around 9am set off a series of smaller explosions as several other cars erupted in flames.
“There were other small explosions after the fire set off the fuel tanks in the parked cars nearby,” professor Bernardino Leon told the Antena 3 TV channel.
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, speaking in San Salvador where he is attending a summit, slammed the “terrorist attack and the blind, criminal and fanatical violence of ETA once again committed in my country.
King Juan Carlos echoed him, expressing his “strongest condemnation and revulsion in the face of this terrorist act.”
Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba told reporters that the casualties could have been much worse, but nobody had been that close to the bomb when it went off.
Rubalcaba said a man claiming to represent ETA had put in a warning call to the regional DYA traffic department — a common conduit used by the armed Basque separatist group to provide warning of their imminent attacks.
The man said a “white Peugeot” was going to explode at a nearby university without specifying which one, Rubalcaba said.
The blast comes two days after the arrest of four suspected ETA members, three of whom were picked up in Navarra.
Spain’s interior ministry said the group “were ready to carry an attack, probably in Navarra.”
The car used in Thursday’s attack was stolen on Wednesday evening in the town of Zumaya, Rubalcaba said.
A second professor at the university, Ramon Salaverria, described the intensity of the blast.
“I felt the whole building shake and I thought it was an earthquake. And then I saw a column of smoke about 30 to 40 meters high,” he said, according to the Web site of the 20 Minutos newspaper.
Some 400 people were evacuated from nearby buildings after the explosion, although the rest of the campus continued to function as normal, university director of communication Jesus Diaz said.