Another ETA blast as children used for extortion campaign

8th March 2006, Comments 0 comments

8 March 2006, SANTANDER — A bomb exploded at the offices of a far-right political party in Santona in northern Spain after a warning phone call in the name of ETA.

8 March 2006

SANTANDER — A bomb exploded at the offices of a far-right political party in Santona in northern Spain after a warning phone call in the name of ETA.

Police said they had received a call at 7.15am from someone claiming to represent the Basque separatist guerrillas. The bomb went off at around 8am.

The blast was at the offices of the Falange party, which strongly opposes regional separatism.

Officials said there had been no injuries, but police had cordoned off the area and were assessing damage.

Meanwhile, though Spain has been stirred for weeks with talk of a possible truce by ETA, the Basque terrorist organization has stepped up one of its more controversial practices, sending extortion demands to businessmen accompanied by photos of their wives or children, who are threatened with death, police sources said.

The new wave of extortion letters demanding payment of a "revolutionary tax" is similar to one unleashed by ETA in December 2005, but now the threats are more blunt, stating clearly that "this is the last letter" the businessmen are going to receive, the officials told EFE.

The letters, which have been received by several people in the Basque region whose businesses have been bombed in recent months, state that the terrorist group is no longer just targeting their property, but now also their families.

To drive the point home, recent photographs of business owners' wives and small children going about their daily lives, such as going to school, were included, as well as information about the vehicles they own.

ETA also warned the targeted executives that "the only possibility" of ending the attacks on their property was to pay about EUR 201,000.

So far this year, the terrorist group has carried out 12 attacks, most of them against businesses, but no one has been killed because ETA has provided warnings in each case.

The Basque Business Confederation criticized the "cruelty" of the extortion campaign and said it was "a bucket of cold water for Basque society's hopes for a peace process" with the terrorist group.

Hopes for peace were spurred by the fact that there have not been any lethal attacks in nearly three years by ETA, which has killed 817 people since it took up arms in 1968.

Expectations that a peace process might be near rose last month after Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said that circumstances were propitious for "the beginning of the beginning of the end" to terrorism by ETA.

Zapatero's government, however, said it has not had contacts with ETA and any dialogue would take place if and when the Basque terrorist group laid down its arms.

ETA has used funds generated by extortion rackets against business owners in the Basque region and other parts of Spain to fund its operations.

Hopes for a breakthrough were also bolstered last month when the president of the Basque regional government, moderate nationalist Juan Jose Ibarretxe, said he expected ETA to announce "in the near future" its abandonment of terrorist activities.

"One should be prepared for good things," Ibarretxe, although he was cautious about specifying a time period within which such an announcement might be made.

ETA is an acronym for the Basque words meaning "Homeland and Freedom."

The group took up arms when Spain was governed by the rightist dictatorship of Francisco Franco, with the aim of achieving an independent country comprising parts of northern Spain and southern France.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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