Spanish elite attend funeral of car-bombed policeman

21st June 2009, Comments 0 comments

Spanish political leaders joined police chiefs and grieving relatives at the funeral Saturday of the head of an anti-terror unit killed a day earlier in a car bombing blamed on Basque separatists

Bilbao - Spanish political leaders joined police chiefs and grieving relatives at the funeral Saturday of the head of an anti-terror unit killed a day earlier in a car bombing blamed on Basque separatists.

Thousands later also took part in a march through the Basque city of Bilbao to condemn the armed Basque separatist group ETA.

Eduardo Pulles Garcia, a 49-year-old inspector, died on Friday after his car exploded when he started the engine in a parking lot in the Basque town of Arrigorriaga, near Bilbao.

A witness quoted by local media said the trapped officer pleaded for help as the flames engulfed him before he was overcome.

Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega was joined by Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, Crown Prince Felipe and his wife Princess Letizia and the head of the regional Basque government, Patxi Lopez, at the funeral Saturday.

Garcia's coffin, partially draped in a Spanish flag, was carried amid applause by members of the Spanish and Basque regional security forces from his police station, where a service was held, to Bilbao's San Jose church for the funeral.

The officer's wife, two children and other loved ones walked behind them with hundreds of people lining streets adjacent to the packed chapel.

Media reports said the officer had participated in operations leading to the arrest of 70 ETA members or associates.

Lopez pointed the finger at ETA in remarks to the Basque parliament in Vitoria on Friday, where deputies observed a minute's silence.

ETA, considered a terrorist organisation by the European Union and the United States, is blamed for the deaths of 825 people in its 40-year campaign to carve a Basque homeland out of northern Spain and southwestern France.

On Saturday evening, relatives of Garcia and other victims of ETA led a march by thousands through Bilbao, carrying a huge banner reading "For Freedom, ETA No."

Lopez, de la Vega, Basque politicians and French ambassador Bruno Delaye also took part.

Silent vigils were also held in several Spanish towns and cities Saturday morning.

ETA resumed attacks in mid-2007 after a 15-month truce following a deadlock in tentative peace talks with Madrid.

Since then the Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has taken a hard line against it, and repeatedly ruled out any new negotiations, while a string of operations by Spanish and French police have weakened ETA's leadership.

ETA said last month it was planning a new and "effective" strategy from this summer after a period of "reflection."

Six hooded people set a bus ablaze in the Basque city of San Sebastian early Saturday after ordering the passengers out of the vehicle, the regional interior ministry said.

AFP / Expatica

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