ETA says France shooting was against its policy

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ETA said Monday that an incident in France in which two of its members opened fire on a policeman was "against the will" of the armed Basque separatist group.

It blamed the policies of the French and Spanish governments for the shooting earlier this month in central France that left one policeman wounded.

ETA said it "understands the concern that these events can provoke in Basque society," in a statement issued in the separatist Basque newspaper Gara.

"In that regard, we want to note that these clashes are contrary to the will of ETA."

Last January 10, ETA announced a permanent, verifiable ceasefire. But Spain's government rejected the offer, demanding the group go further and disband entirely.

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.

A car carrying the two ETA suspects sped through a police checkpoint in the Creuse region of central France on April 9.

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 the next day there was another exchange of fire but no one was injured. The pair were then arrested.

Spanish media have identified them as Itziar Moreno and Oier Gomez Mielgo, who is on a Spanish police list of the most wanted ETA suspects.

ETA said the incident was "the result of the repressive blindness of the Spanish and French states" and "another link in the serious chain of events that have occurred in recent weeks..."

"Thus, ignoring the will of ETA and the desire of the Basque society, the governments of Spain and France and their armed forces which harass, detain, torture and imprison Basques have full responsibility for what happened," it said in the brief statement, dated April 19 but released Sunday.

A day after the arrests in France, the radical Basque Left, an informal grouping of militants from ETA's banned political wing Batasuna, condemned the shooting in France as "unacceptable" and "completely incompatible" with the commitments taken by the armed group.

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

ETA's latest statement was the second in 24 hours.

On Sunday, it said a "new era" has opened for the Basque region but the road to independence will be "long and hard."

The group announced a "permanent ceasefire" in March 2006, but nine months later it set off a bomb in the car park of Madrid's airport, killing two men.

Since then, the Spanish and French authorities have taken a hard line against it, arresting dozens of ETA members including some senior leaders.

In its latest statement, ETA said it "is continuing working to build a situation that makes possible a final and democratic solution to the armed conflict, in line" with its January 10 ceasefire announcement.

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 on May 22.

© 2011 AFP

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