Basque separatist party condemns France shooting

11th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

The outlawed Basque separatist party Batasuna on Monday condemned a shootout in France in which two suspected ETA members opened fire on a policeman before being arrested.

French police on Sunday arrested the two suspected members of the armed separatist group ETA a day after a pair of shootouts on country roads that left one gendarme wounded.

The incidents are "extremely serious," said the radical Basque Left, an informal grouping of militants from the ETA's banned political wing Batasuna.

It said the ETA shooting on Saturday was "unacceptable" and "completely incompatible" with the commitments taken by ETA, which on January 10 announced a permament and verifiable ceasefire.

The statement urged that "the relevant explanations are made as soon as possible to clarify the facts."

A massive manhunt involving 300 paramilitary police, a special operations unit and tracker dogs was launched Saturday after the couple's car sped through a police checkpoint in the Creuse region of central France, French police said.

The male passenger of the car fired four shots when police gave chase, hitting one gendarme in the collarbone. The pair later abandoned their car and made off on foot.

When a police team caught up with them on Sunday morning there was another exchange of fire but no one was injured, police said. The pair were arrested and taken to be interrogated by anti-terrorist officers.

Spanish public television identified the pair as Itziar Moreno and Oier Gomez Mielgo, who is on a Spanish police list of the most wanted ETA suspects.

ETA is blamed for the deaths of 829 people in its four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings to force the creation of an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France.

Under pressure from Batasuna, the organisation in January declared a "permanent and general ceasefire." But Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero rejected the declaration, saying he wanted nothing less than ETA's dissolution.

Spain's top court last month rejected an application by a new Basque pro-independence group, Sortu, to form a political party so that it can stand in local elections in May.

Sortu was launched in February by people close to Batasuna as a new party that rejects violence.

Zapatero said Monday that "those who want to participate in democracy should know that democracy is demanding," and that "apologies or justifications are worthless.

"You have to be forceful in rejecting violence," he said. "I hope that the steps that some people seem to want to take are much deeper."

© 2011 AFP

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