ETA car bomb intended to be a massacre, says minister

15th May 2008, Comments 0 comments

Opposition Popular Party offered its full support to the ruling Socialists in anti-terror fight after recent bomb went off without warning.

15 May 2008

MADRID - A powerful car bomb killed a Civil Guard officer and injured four other people when it exploded outside a Civil Guard barracks in the Basque Country on Wednesday in the first fatal attack in two months blamed on Basque terrorist group ETA.

Juan Manuel Piñuel Villalón, a 41-year-old Civil Guard officer, was the sole fatality of an attack that Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba said had been intended to cause a "massacre."

Twenty-nine people, among them Civil Guard officers, their wives and five children, were inside the barracks on the outskirts of the small village of Legutiano, 17 kilometres north of Vitoria, when the bomb went off without warning at 3am.

Piñuel Villalón was in the process of calling in the presence of a suspicious white van parked outside the perimeter wall of the barracks when the vehicle blew up, destroying the guard tower in which he was keeping watch, tearing apart the front of the building and creating a three-meter wide crater in the ground.

His body was pulled from the rubble two hours later along with a sergeant who was also in the guard tower at the time and who last night was recovering in hospital. Three others were also injured, although doctors said their lives are not at risk.

"The terrorist group wanted a massacre, but it failed," Rubalcaba said after visiting Legutiano.

Police sources said the bomb consisted of around 100 kilograms of explosive.

In contrast to its previous opposition to the government's approach to ETA, the opposition Popular Party offered its full support to the ruling Socialists. "I told you that when things got ugly [...] I would stand at your side," PP leader Mariano Rajoy told Prime Minister Zapatero.

Speaking in Congress, Zapatero himself called the attack a "cowardly and criminal" act and said it reinforces the government's determination to defeat ETA.

The murder of the Civil Guard officer yesterday brings to six the number of people killed by ETA since the group broke a ceasefire with a car bomb attack at Madrid's Barajas Airport in December 2006, which left two dead.

In December 2007, ETA gunmen killed two undercover Civil Guard officers in France, while in March an assassin murdered a Socialist former councillor in the Basque town of Mondragón two days before the general election.

[El Pais / Ángeles Espinosa / Expatica]

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