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The BBC's Flora Botsford
"The extra measures are costing the Spanish government"
 real 28k

Thursday, 26 July, 2001, 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK
ETA bomb targets Spanish tourism
Spanish  beach
The Spanish tourist season is entering full swing
Spanish police have defused a powerful car bomb that was primed to explode at the airport in the southern city of Malaga - one of the hubs of Spain's lucrative tourist industry.

ETA flags at funeral
ETA wants a separate Basque state
Bomb experts were summoned to the airport early on Thursday after receiving a telephone warning from a caller claiming to be a member of the Basque separatist group, ETA.

ETA, which has been waging a violent campaign for independence since the 1960s, has warned foreign tourists of "undesirable consequences" should they visit Spain this year.

On Tuesday, an ETA member blew herself up and injured several other people when handling explosives in a resort in eastern Spain.

Fifteen minutes to go

It took police some five hours to defuse the car bomb at Malaga airport, which was estimated to contain 50-60 kilogrammes of explosives.

They located the Peugeot 406 car in the airport car park, just 15 minutes before the device was due to explode, reports say.

The incident caused chaos at the airport, which plays a central role in Andalucia's Costa del Sol. The region attracts more than one million tourists a year.

The airport's main terminal was closed as were roads in and out of the airport.

Planes continued to land and take off, and newly-arrived passengers were taken to auxiliary terminals where they had to endure long waits before being allowed to leave.

Some flights were delayed, affecting more than 1,000 Britons trying to leave Malaga.

The Associated Press news agency in Malaga says that at one point, the queue of cars trying to get into the airport stretched back 10km (seven miles).

'Remain firm'

The head of Andalucia's tourist department, Jose Hurtado, put a brave face on the ETA bomb.

ETA car bomb
Car bombs are a common ETA tactic
"We are going to remain firm in terms of security. Nothing and no one of the criminal gang ETA is going to defeat our community or the tourism sector," he said.

On Wednesday, the British Foreign Office updated its advice to Britons planning to visit Spain.

"The threat to British citizens in Spain remains low, but British nationals, residents and visitors throughout Spain should be aware that there is a risk," a Foreign Office statement read.

Fears of increased ETA activity grew after a fatal explosion in the resort of Torrevieja, near the eastern city of Alicante on Tuesday.

Police say a 22-year-old ETA activist blew herself up when handling explosives in a flat owned by the parents of another suspected activist.

ETA has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks throughout Spain this year which have included attacks on police and local politicians.

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