ETA blamed as policeman killed

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The Independent Online

A policeman was shot dead after approaching two men pushing an explosives-laden car in Barcelona today. Basque separatists are being blamed.

A policeman was shot dead after approaching two men pushing an explosives-laden car in Barcelona today. Basque separatists are being blamed.

The shooting occurred shortly before 8 a.m. (0700 GMT) on Avenida Diagonal, a major thoroughfare in a bustling area of Spain's second largest city.

It raised to 23 the number of killings that the armed Basque separatist group ETA has claimed or been blamed for this year after calling off a 14-month old cease-fire last December.

The officer saw two men pushing a red Fiat compact car, walked up to them to ask for their identity papers and was shot in the head and chest, Barcelona city police said. The assailants fled on foot.

Bomb disposal experts searched the car and found a pressure cooker containing about six kilos (13 pounds) of explosives, police said. Such pots are sometimes used by ETA to pack explosives.

The car also had fake license plates, a technique often used by ETA when it uses a stolen vehicle, the Interior Ministry said.

Deputy Prime Minister Rodrigo Rato and other politicians blamed ETA.

"ETA wants to attack democracy and freedom in the Basque country and undermine the spirit of democracy and freedom that Spain has these days," Rato said in Madrid.

The officer was identified as Miguel Angel Gervilla Valladolid, age 38. He was married and had two children, the news agency Efe said.

The last two attacks attributed to ETA this year also occurred in or near Barcelona. Last Thursday a bomb planted under the seat of a van killed Francisco Cano, a plumber who also served as councilor for the ruling Popular Party in Viladecavalls, a small town about 20 kilometers (12 miles) northwest of Barcelona.

ETA has been fighting since 1968 to create an independent Basque homeland in an area straddling northern Spain and southwest France. Its campaign of violence has left around 800 people dead.

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