Hooded gunmen kill judge in Eta revenge attack

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The Independent Online

Two hooded gunmen killed a provincial judge near Bilbao yesterday, the second terrorist attack in Spain within 24 hours.

Two hooded gunmen killed a provincial judge near Bilbao yesterday, the second terrorist attack in Spain within 24 hours.

Jose Maria Liron Corbi, 50, who was also a professor at Deusto University in Bilbao, was driving home early yesterday morning with his wife and son through the Basque countryside near his home in Getxo when he was shot dead at close range.

The killing followed Tuesday's bomb attack in Madrid that injured nearly 100 people and threw Spain into one of its frequent paroxysms of rage and grief at the continuing terror campaign waged by Eta – the Basque separatists who are blamed for both acts.

Mr Liron had no bodyguard, despite customarily leaving home every morning at the same time. As he drove from his garage, one hooded man appeared from behind, another in front, and shot him in the head through the car window on the driver's side. He died instantly. His son alerted the police.

Angel Acebes, the Justice Minister, said Eta seized the chance to kill at every opportunity. "To look for logic in the actions of a crazed, criminal group is very risky. Eta kills whoever and whenever it can," he said. "Yesterday it attacked a government official, other times it attacks police and today it attacked the judiciary."

The twin attack is seen as a riposte to recent government attempts to destroy not just Eta but the wider political support network that operates legally but is considered to form part of Eta's command structure. In a crackdown last week, 13 members of the committees that support Eta prisoners and raise money for their families were arrested, accused of collaborating with terrorism.

In Tuesday's bomb attack scores of people were injured but none was killed when a car bomb near a school in a busy residential area was detonated by remote control at rush hour. The target of that attack, the government scientist Juan Junquera, escaped with minor injuries when his chauffeur – sensing something was amiss as their vehicle approached the car packed with explosives – slammed on the brakes.

The government and police have apprehended two bombing suspects after a resident followed them from the scene in his car, giving the police a running commentary on his mobile phone. "Local hero" and "Citizen's vigilance" were among the headlines in yesterday's newspapers, as commentators and ministers said the "have-a-go" impulse of ordinary people was the new strategy to foil terrorists.

But the sense of success fell flat by breakfast time yesterday and radio talkshows that were celebrating the lucky escapes of the previous day had to confront a bloody reprise of a Basque separatist assault

No sooner had Mariano Rajoy, the Interior Minister, suggested Eta's Madrid command structure had been dismantled than the organisation struck hundreds of miles away in its Basque heartland, mocking government claims.

The latest attacks come within weeks of the disarmament process that was initiated by the IRA, once seen by Eta as an inspiration and potential role model. But if Eta seems immune to the hardening world climate against terrorism, the conservative government of Jose Maria Aznar remains equally insistent that no talks are possible with gunmen and that the problem can be solved by ever-fiercer security measures to counter terrorism.