Car bomb in Spanish Basque city hurts one

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BILBAO, Spain, Oct 9 (Reuters) A car bomb today exploded in the northern city of Bilbao in Spain's Basque Country, badly injuring a man who worked as a bodyguard for a local politician, police and government officials said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, but it came just days after a judge arrested most of the top leaders of radical Basque separatist party Batasuna, which is banned for links to ETA guerrillas.

A man working as a bodyguard for a local politician from Spain's governing Socialist Party was injured by the bomb in the working-class neighbourhood of La Pena at about 1705 hrs IST, Basque Country police and Spanish government officials said.

The blast came as Basque separatism looms as one of the major issues in next March's Spanish general elections.

ETA has killed more than 800 people in four decades of armed struggle for independence of the Basque Country. It has staged several attempted attacks since calling off a cease fire in June but has not claimed any lives since it killed two people with a car bomb at Madrid airport in December.

Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero broke off attempted peace talks with ETA after the airport bombing.

The conservative opposition, which is narrowly behind in opinion polls, accuses the government of being soft on Basque separatists.

REUTERS SG BST1850

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