March 26, 2008 / 7:08 PM / in 10 years

New bomb blast as Chile braces for protests

SANTIAGO, March 26 (Reuters) - A bomb exploded at a bank in the Chilean capital on Wednesday, the second attack in 10 days, and authorities blamed anarchists, who hold protests at this time every year.

A fire extinguisher containing a homemade explosive charge detonated at the door of a branch of state-run BancoEstado in west Santiago. No one was injured, but a door and windows were damaged.

"We believe (those responsible) are anarchists," a source at the state prosecutor’s office said, asking not to be named. "(The bombs) are part of the propaganda of these groups."

On Saturday, anarchists are expected to mark the anniversary of the deaths of two militant brothers during Augusto Pinochet’s iron-fisted 1973-1990 rule.

There have been numerous bomb threats leading up to Saturday’s anniversary, known as the "Day of the Young Combatant," which has become a lightning rod for protests by anti-establishment groups and radicals.

Shortly after Wednesday’s blast, police evacuated students from a school in the capital after a bomb threat.

Last year, groups of students wearing balaclavas clashed with police in the capital and other cities, some throwing stones and molotov cocktails at police, who retaliated with tear gas and water cannon.

At least 12 police were wounded in the clashes, and many shops and businesses closed down for the day. Several explosive devices detonated, but no one was injured.

Chile’s government has vowed to clamp down on radical groups who set off bombs, and extra police will patrol the streets of Santiago on Saturday.

"We are always on guard, but we won’t get caught up in their game," government spokesman Francisco Vidal told reporters. (Reporting by Simon Gardner and Antonio de la Jara)

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