MADRID — A car bomb believed planted by Basque separatists destroyed a passing military minibus here Thursday, killing its five occupants and wounding seven people on the street and in nearby buildings.
The blast came several days after reports that the separatist group ETA was preparing to stop attacks for several months in hopes of promoting negotiations. Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez has repeatedly insisted that the attackers lay down their arms before talks begin between the government and ETA, an acronym for Basque Homeland and Freedom.
Three army officers, one soldier and a civilian employee died in Thursday's explosion, Defense Minister Julian Garcia Vargas announced.
Moments after the blast, the area was filled with acrid smoke, broken glass and screaming people, resident Ivan Calabuig said.
"Everybody was completely hysterical," he said. "I saw two cars completely destroyed. . . . It had people inside--actually it was just pieces of people."
Police estimated that the bomb, believed to have been detonated remotely, was made up of nearly 90 pounds of explosives and shrapnel.