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ETA blamed in attack on Spanish police in France

December 02, 2007|From Reuters

CAPBRETON, FRANCE — Suspected ETA gunmen shot and killed a Spanish policeman and seriously wounded another in France on Saturday, the first killing by the Basque separatist group in almost a year.

The two plain-clothed Guardia Civil policemen had been taking part in a surveillance operation with French police in Capbreton, 12 miles from the southern city of Biarritz, French police said.

Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said it appeared the policemen and ETA suspects were in the same cafeteria by chance and that after the two sides recognized each other, the two policemen left the bar.

The suspects followed them, and shouts were heard followed by shots, Rubalcaba said at a news conference with French counterpart Michele Alliot-Marie. The two were shot at point-blank range, according to French police.

Alliot-Marie said ETA had shot at police in France before, but that the latest incident was "quite exceptional."

"By all accounts, this is something that was done in cold blood, and it's the first time that that has happened," she said.

The two victims were found in an unmarked French car in a supermarket parking lot in this small resort town early Saturday. The wounded officer was hospitalized in critical condition.

Alliot-Marie said police were still hunting two men and a woman, who Spanish media said was their getaway driver. A woman in her 30s was briefly taken hostage before being tied to a tree. She was able to free herself several hours later, police said.

If ETA is in fact responsible, the policeman's death will be its first killing since the group called off a 15-month cease-fire in June. That truce had ended in effect when it bombed Madrid's airport last Dec. 30, killing two.

The shooting would be ETA's first fatal attack in France since 1976. It follows at least four attempted bombings in northern Spain since August that have been attributed to the group.

ETA has killed more than 800 people in four decades of struggle for independence for Basque territories in northern Spain and southern France.

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