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Bomb Kills 1, Hurts 27 at Airways Office in Madrid; 15 Hurt in Rome

July 02, 1985|From Times Wire Services

MADRID — A terrorist bomb exploded in a crowded British Airways ticket office Monday, killing one woman and injuring 27, including a Southern Californian.

A Beirut telephone caller said the attack was aimed at an adjacent TWA office in a response to President Reagan's vow to "fight back" against terrorists.

Meanwhile, in Rome, a bomb exploded in a suitcase being transferred from one flight to another at Leonardo da Vinci Airport, injuring 15 airport employees.

In Madrid, the British Airways office is just below an office of Trans World Airlines, and TWA's logo is prominently displayed on the facade of the building. The attack came soon after the end of the hijacking of a TWA airliner, which saw Americans held hostage in Beirut during a 16-day ordeal.

Vacationing Sydney Bridges, 17, of Ontario, Calif. was among those injured in the midday bombing on Gran Via, Madrid's best-known shopping boulevard. Standing outside the office, Bridges told his brother, Don, that he saw "some man run into the building and throw this taped box on the counter and run out again."

"My brother said he knew what it was and he started running but it was too late," said Don Bridges, 21, who is touring Europe with Sydney and a third brother, Fredrick, 14.

Minutes after the explosion, gunmen opened fire with submachine guns on the office of the Jordanian airline Alia several hundred yards away on Plaza de Espana, shattering its windows. A grenade was thrown into the office, but it did not explode and was later deactivated. No one immediately claimed responsibility for that assault.

Claim in Beirut

Responsibility for the Madrid bomb was claimed in Beirut by an Arabic-speaking caller who telephoned a news agency.

"The bombing of the TWA office came as a direct reply to Ronald Reagan's threat that he would strike at terrorists," he said. "Let Reagan know that our hands will reach the whole world and we shall never remain silent after this."

The caller said he represented the "Organization of the Oppressed." The TWA hijackers at one point issued a statement signed, "The Oppressed of the Earth."

In a speech after the release of the hostages on Sunday, Reagan warned terrorists that "we will fight back against you in Lebanon and elsewhere. We will fight back against your cowardly attacks on American citizens and property."

Spanish authorities quickly linked the Madrid attacks to the Beirut hostage crisis. "The suspicions are quite clear and (the attacks) are probably related to the TWA hijacking," said Joaquin Leguina, president of the Madrid regional government.

A Spanish court June 25 sentenced two Lebanese Shia Muslims to prison terms of 23 years for the attempted assassination of a Libyan diplomat. The release of the two had been among the TWA hijackers' initial demands.

In Rome, the airport was closed for half an hour by the explosion at 8 p.m. and several resulting small fires.

There were conflicting reports on the route of the luggage, one saying it came from Athens and was going on a flight to Madrid, another that it came from Beirut and was to go to New Delhi. Police said the baggage tags had been destroyed in the blast, making it difficult to identify the flights involved.

All four cities are connected to recent airline violence. The TWA hijacking began in Athens and ended in Beirut. An Air-India Boeing 747 heading for London and New Delhi crashed off Ireland a week ago, presumably from a terrorist bomb.

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