Car bomb in Spain's Basque country kills policeman

Click to follow

A powerful car bomb exploded today near the Basque city of Bilbao, killing a policeman in an attack that bore the hallmarks of the separatist group ETA, officials said.

In what appears to be the first ETA killing since December, the bomb exploded in a parking lot in Arrigorriaga and a policeman inside the targeted car died. Amateur video footage showed large flames shooting out of the vehicle.

The victim was a member of the Spanish National Police, said the Basque interior minister Rodolfo Ares.

"I want to express the most vehement condemnation of this new terrorist attack, this murder of a national policeman," Ares told reporters.

Spanish news reports said the bomb was attached to the underside of the car and went off when the officer started the engine. This is a technique often used by ETA. Ares said he could not yet confirm the details of the attack.

If ETA involvement were confirmed, it would be the group's first deadly attack since a new, non-nationalist government took power in the troubled region on May 7. That ended nearly 30 years of rule by the Basque Nationalist Party, which governed on a platform that flirted with independence from Spain.

ETA has blown up electrical towers since the March 1 Basque election but no one was hurt.

The group has been hit by the arrest of three senior leaders and many other members over the past year and the government has described the organization as seriously weakened.

ETA's last fatal attack was the shooting of businessman Ignacio Uria Mendizabal in the town of Azpeitia, near San Sebastian, in December.

ETA has killed more than 825 people since it launched a campaign in the late 1960s for an independent homeland.

It declared what it called a permanent cease-fire in 2006, but reverted to violence in a matter of months after peace talks with the Spanish government went nowhere.