A car bomb exploded in the underground parking lot of a crowded shopping center today, killing 15 people in one of the worst terrorist attacks against a civilian target in Spain, authorities said.
At least 30 people also were injured when the bomb exploded at about 4:15 p.m. at the Hipercor store in downtown Barcelona, Spain's second biggest city, 400 miles northeast of Madrid.
Five minutes before the blast, the Barcelona newspaper Avui received a warning from a caller claiming to speak for the Basque separatist group ETA that a bomb had been planted at the store.
Rescue operations were hampered by smoke and fumes from the parking lot, where several cars went up in flames. Officials feared more people might be trapped in the parking lot.
Hidden in Trunk of Car
Police said they recovered the bodies of 15 people from the burning rubble.
Hospital sources said 30 other people were rushed to two nearby hospitals, and most of the injured were treated for burns and smoke inhalation.
Radio reports said that the bomb was hidden in the trunk of a car and that the explosion was triggered by a timer. Police did not immediately confirm the reports.
An employee at the store said that Hipercor had received a bomb threat two hours before the explosion but that the store management had decided not to evacuate the building because it was not the first time a bomb threat had been received.
"All of a sudden people started running down the street in panic," a witness said. "There was terrible confusion."
Authorities said the bombing was one of the worst terrorist attacks against a civilian target in Spain. In another attack linked to ETA, 12 people were killed and more than 40 wounded in a lunchtime bombing Sept. 13, 1974, in a Madrid cafeteria.
Before today's bombing, the ETA had killed three people in six car bombings in Barcelona since September.