ETA 'preparing for chemical weapon attack': police

11th October 2007, Comments 0 comments

11 October 2007 , MADRID - (AFP) - ETA is reported to have stolen chemical weapons to use in attacks, after a raid on a chemical factory.

11 October 2007

MADRID - (AFP) - ETA is reported to have stolen chemical weapons to use in attacks, after a raid on a chemical factory.

French police said four masked robbers stole materials which could be used to make bombs.

It would mark a significant and radical change in the tactics employed by the Basque terrorist group.

After a car bombing in Spain's Basque Country, ETA showed it was ready to launch attacks aimed at killing people for the first time since 2003, officials and observers said.

"ETA has decided to cross the line and kill directly, and not just run the risk of killing," said Florencio Dominguez, the head of the Vasco Press news agency in the Basque Country and one of Spain's leading experts on ETA.

ETA "has taken a deliberate step and is looking to kill," said Spain's secretary of state for security, Antonio Camacho

The bodyguard of a local legislator from the Basque Socialist Party was seriously injured Tuesday when a limpet bomb exploded under his car in the city of Bilbao.

Gabriel Giner, 36, himself an activist for the right-wing Popular Party, was in serious condition in hospital with second and third degree burns, but was lucky to survive. He managed to escape from the car, even though the bomb was placed next to the petrol tank which caught fire after the blast.

The government blamed ETA for the attack, which came just five days after police arrested most of the top members of Batasuna, the group's banned political wing.

The most senior Batasuna official still at liberty, Pernando Barrena, had termed Thursday's arrests a "declaration of war" and warned of a "new cycle of violence" in Spain.

The last time ETA staged an attack deliberately aimed at killing people was on May 30, 2003, when two policemen died in the Basque Country when a limpet bomb was placed under their vehicle -- as in Tuesday's incident in Bilbao.

"Limpet bombs are statistically more lethal than the spectacular car bombs," Dominguez told AFP. "They kill on average one person in every two attacks."

Between 2003 and the announcement of the "permanent ceasefire" in March 2006, ETA's car-bomb attacks were always preceded by telephoned warnings to security forces in order to spare human lives.

This strategy helped convince Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to launch peace negotiations with ETA.

The prime minister countered heavy criticism of his stance by stressing that ETA had never deliberately killed anyone for several years.

Even before an attack in the parking lot of Madrid's airport on December 30, 2006, in which two Ecuadorian immigrants were killed, ETA had made several telephone calls to warn authorities.

The Bilbao attack marks "a turning point" and "reopens a path to attacks against people," said the head of the Basque regional government, Juan Jose Ibarretxe.

ETA "wants to return to this destructive past where it attacks property, lives and innocent people," he said.

ETA -- listed as a terrorist organisation by the European Union and the United States -- is blamed for the deaths of 819 people during almost four decades of its independence drive for the Basque region which they say includes parts of northern Spain and southwest France.

Between 2000 and 2003, following the end of a ceasefire in 1999, it carried out 16 attacks that killed a total of eight people, including legislators from both the Socialist Party and the conservative Popular Party.

Since the end of a second 15-month ceasefire in June, the Zapatero's Socialist government -- facing a general election in six months -- adopted a harder line against it.

Faced with the new tough approach, ETA "has opted ... for individual attacks, which are much easier to carry out," the El Pais newspaper said, quoting Basque nationalist sources.

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Subject: Spanish news

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