Thu, May 15, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Blast in Basque town work of ETA, police say

FATAL BOMBINGA van packed with explosives went off outside a Civil Guard station, killing one officer and forcing the evacuation of 40 people


A powerful car bomb detonated yesterday outside a police station in northern Spain, killing one officer and wounding four others in an attack blamed on the militant Basque separatist group ETA, police said.

A van packed with explosives exploded before dawn outside a Civil Guard station that also houses officers and their families in Legutiano, a small town near the Basque capital, Vitoria.

Authorities said some 40 people, including women and several children, had to be evacuated from the building following the blast.

The Civil Guard killed was identified as Juan Manuel Pinuel Villalon, 41, who was married with one child.

The last fatal attack by ETA was the shooting of a former town councilor in the Basque town of Mondragon on March 7, two days before Spain’s general election.

ETA usually phones in warnings before it strikes but this time it did not, and the bomb was large, an official with the Basque regional interior ministry said. She spoke on condition of anonymity, in line with department rules.

The officer who died was one of two who were trapped inside the building, the official said.

Three other officers were also wounded but their lives are not believed to be in danger, she said.

“ETA has hurt us terribly this morning with this horrible attack,” Rodolfo Ares, spokesman for the Socialist party in the Basque region, told Spanish National Radio.

“But the group is weaker than ever and we will win in the end and peace will be established,” he said.

ETA has staged more than 20 attacks since ending a ceasefire in December 2006, after peace talks with the government failed to yield concessions for the separatist group. The death toll stands at six, including Wednesday’s fatality.

The resurgent ETA is one of the biggest challenges facing Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who won a second term in the March election.

Zapatero’s government negotiated with ETA after the group declared what it called a permanent cease-fire in March 2006.

But ETA grew frustrated with a lack of concessions toward its goal of an independent Basque homeland, and in December 2006 it set off a huge car bomb at a parking garage at the Madrid airport, killing two people.

It insisted then that the deaths were unintended and that the truce still held, but formally called it off about six months later.

ETA has killed more than 820 people since launching its campaign of bombings and shootings in the late 1960s.

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