ETA Targets Tourism Mallorca Shaken by Series of Bombings

The Spanish resort island of Mallorca is in a state of shock after a series of bombings Sunday apparently carried out by Basque separatist group ETA. The group clearly wants to disrupt the tourist trade in the popular vacation destination.

By Silke Droll and Frank Feldmeier in Palma de Mallorca

Just 10 days after a bomb on Mallorca killed two police officers, the Spanish resort island has been hit by another wave of bomb attacks apparently carried out by the Basque separatist group ETA.

A series of three bombs exploded in the Mallorcan capital Palma de Mallorca within the space of a few hours on Sunday. No one was injured. A telephone warning apparently issued by ETA alerted authorities before the first bomb exploded and police evacuated beaches, public spaces and hotels. Police on Sunday night also searched a hotel where they suspected a fourth bomb could be, authorities told reporters.

One bomb exploded in the toilet of the upmarket restaurant La Rigoletta opposite Can Pere Antoni beach at around 3 p.m. on Sunday. Police were able to carry out a controlled explosion of a second bomb which had been left in a nearby bar shortly afterwards. On Sunday evening, a third bomb exploded in an empty shopping mall beneath Plaza Mayor square. Police had earlier sealed off the area. The bombs only contained small amounts of explosives and caused little damage.

Customers at La Rigoletta were enjoying their lunch when the loud explosion shook the restaurant. "The patrons, who numbered about 40 people, were sitting outside eating when there was a loud bang inside the restaurant," Ricardo Chaleh, who is a cook in a restaurant next door to La Rigoletta, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "The walls in my kitchen shook. Shortly afterwards there was acrid smoke everywhere."

"I heard a bang," cleaner Maribel Calle, who was working in La Rigoletta's outside area at the time of the explosion, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "The walls shook."

"I was sitting in a restaurant whose outside seating area connects to that of La Rigoletta," German tourist Matthias Krug said. "There was no warning and we weren't evacuated." Krug said he was glad to be leaving the island. "I'm happy that I'm flying home tomorrow."

Spanish authorities said on Sunday evening that the telephone warnings, which apparently came from France, were so confusing that the restaurants affected could not all be evacuated in time. The statement contradicted earlier reports that the locations could all be evacuated in time.

Significant Blow

Spanish King Juan Carlos condemned the attacks in a statement in the early hours of Monday morning. "This gang of murderers and criminals will not succeed in damaging democratic life in Spain or normalcy on the island," he said. Spain's main political parties also condemned the attack.

The bombings are clearly intended to disrupt tourism on the island, whose economy depends largely on holidaymakers, many of whom come from Germany and Britain. In its online travel advisory, the German Foreign Ministry urged visitors to Mallorca to be cautious and to avoid large gatherings of people. It did not, however, warn tourists not to visit the island. The British Foreign Office did not change its overall safety rating for Mallorca but continued to warn of a "high threat" of terrorism in Spain. It stressed, however, that British nationals were not an ETA target.

Local business owners in Palma are concerned about the developments. "It's a significant blow to tourism here," said restaurant owner Jorge Deltramino, whose restaurant La Caballeriza is also located on Can Perre Antoni beach. "Mallorca's livelihood depends on its image of being a peaceful island where you can find peace and quiet and have fun. After the recent attacks, nobody would have thought that it would happen again."

However, tourism experts do not believe the attacks will have a significant effect on Germans' willingness to travel to the Mediterranean island, at least in the short term. "I don't think that (the attacks) by themselves will cause a flood of cancellations tomorrow," Karl Born, professor for tourism at the Harz University of Applied Sciences in Wernigerode, told the German news agency DPA. However he said that the threat of terror would have an effect "at some point in the future" if Mallorca were to become a new target for ETA.

Bartolomé Servera, who is chair of the Balearic retail federation Afedeco, feels that the new series of bombings is different from the previous attack, which was selective. "This was a sign on the part of the terrorists to say, 'If we want to, we can cause damage,'" he told the Mallorcan newspaper Diario de Mallorca.

Tourists on the island appeared to be mixed in their reactions to the attacks. A short time after the explosions, some vacationers were clearly still shocked, while others had already returned to the beach.

Little Progess in Investigation

ETA also claimed responsibility on Sunday for the July 30 bombing in the Palmanova beach resort area on Mallorca which killed two Civil Guard police officers and injured several people, though none seriously. The separatist group also threatened further terror attacks. Security measures on the island have been stepped up since the July 30 attack, with increased checks on travelers to the island. So far, however, police have made little progress in their investigation into the bombing and no arrests have been made.

ETA has been fighting for decades for an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southwestern France. It has been responsible for the deaths of more than 800 people to date. The extremist organization is increasingly losing support among the Basque population.

Experts believe that ETA is trying to prove that it is still capable of acting despite the arrests of several high-ranking members in recent months. Jurdan Martitegi, the head of the group's military unit, was arrested in April and 18 further suspected ETA members were arrested during a three-week period in June and July.

With material from wire reports


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