Spain on full alert as ETA marks 50th anniversary

31st July 2009, Comments 0 comments

Spanish security forces are on maximum alert as Basque separatist group seems to reaffirm its commitment to violence with the two consecutive attacks that left 64 injured and two dead.

Madrid – Spain went on maximum alert Friday as ETA marked its 50th anniversary after two bombings this week blamed on the Basque separatist group, including an attack that killed two police officers.

The approach to the anniversary saw an upsurge in violence, with a massive car bomb exploding outside a police barracks in Burgos in northern Spain on Wednesday which lightly injured 64 people, including sleeping children.

The next day two civil guards, aged 27 and 28, were killed when a bomb detonated under their patrol car outside a barracks in the coastal town of Palmanova on the resort island of Majorca.

Police found a second bomb under another police car at a separate nearby barracks and carried out a controlled explosion after they were unable to defuse it.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero blamed both bombings "on the terrorist group ETA" and vowed to bring all members of the outfit to justice.

"I want to assure citizens that the government has instructed security forces to be on maximum alert, that they redouble their dedication, that they boost even more their efforts and also that they protect themselves from these vile assassins," he said Thursday.

"They have no chance to hide, they can't flee, they can't escape justice, they will be detained, they will be sentenced, they will spend their lives in jail," he added.

Zapatero is to attend a memorial service at Palma's main cathedral later on Friday for the two civil guards along with Crown Prince Felipe and his wife Letizia, Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba and Defence Minister Carme Chacon.

The authorities closed all ports and airport on Majorca, a popular holiday destination, for several hours after the bomb detonated as part of their manhunt, disrupting travel plans for thousands of tourists during the peak holiday season.

Ports on the island were operating normally on Friday but boat traffic was facing tighter controls than usual, a spokesman for the port authority on the Balearic Islands said.

"Boats cannot enter or leave the island without the authorisation of the civil guard. There are only slight delays affecting passengers due to search operations," he said.

ETA was founded by nationalist students inspired by Marxist-Leninist teachings on 31 July 1959, at a time when Spain was still run by right-wing dictator Francisco Franco.

It is blamed for the deaths of 828 people in its campaign for an independent Basque homeland encompassing parts of northern Spain and southwest France.

About 95 percent of its victims have been killed since Franco died in 1975 and Spain returned to Europe's democratic fold after four decades of isolation.

Spanish newspaper El Mundo said on Sunday that security forces were on the alert after having received information from France that ETA planned to bring three vans packed with explosives into Spain.

In June, Spanish public television said a new "road map" of strategic plans by ETA reaffirmed its commitment to violence to achieve its aims.

"The terrorists believe that Basque independence is their irreversible goal. Only then will ETA no longer kill," TVE said, quoting a document that it said outlined the group's strategy put together over the past three years.

AFP / Expatica

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