MADRID — A van rigged as a shrapnel bomb was detonated by remote control Monday as a busload of civil guard cadets was driving through a fashionable residential district here, killing nine cadets and wounding at least 60 other people, officials reported.
No group claimed responsibility, but the governing Socialist Party blamed the explosion on "ETA assassins." The Basque separatist group ETA has carried out many similar attacks on military and police targets, the most recent a car bombing April 25 that killed five paramilitary civil guards. The initials ETA stand for Basque homeland and freedom in the Basque language.
Twisted metal, mangled cars and shards of glass littered Dominican Republic Square about three miles from the center of the capital. The bomb exploded at 7:48 a.m., shattering windows around the square. The blast destroyed the entrance to a subway station and 10 store fronts. Five cars were gutted by fire.
An angry crowd gathered at the scene soon after the explosion. Many shouted slogans against the government and ETA. Some raised arms in the fascist salute popularized during the long dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco, who died in 1975.
An officer riding next to the bus driver was blown from the vehicle by the blast but landed on his feet unhurt. Diego Cortes Valdes told journalists he had "no idea what happened, but the next minute I was standing, unhurt, next to the wrecked bus."
39 in Serious Condition
Hospital sources said at least 60 people, including several cadets riding in a second bus, were injured in the explosion. Thirty-nine people, five of them in very serious condition, remained hospitalized, the sources said.
A spokesman for the civil guard, whose distinctive gray-green uniforms and patent leather tricorne hats set them off from other police, said 70 young cadets were being taken to a highway patrol training center in the bus and a trailing van. He said the vehicle that exploded contained about 110 pounds of plastic explosives and sprayed nuts and bolts as shrapnel.
State television speculated that the bombing was an ETA response to France's deportation to Gabon on Sunday of the separatist group's reputed military leader.
Domingo Itrube Abasolo, who is 42 and uses the code name Txomin, had been living in France for 18 years as a political refugee. Police arrested him several months ago on charges of violating refugee regulations by keeping weapons in his home.
Police said the operation probably was carried out by the ETA's "Spain Commando," which is based in Madrid.