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Spanish officer killed by Eta unit

A Spanish military officer died yesterday after being shot outside his home in Madrid. Lieutenant-Colonel Jesus Agustin Cuesta, 49, was stepping out of his car 20 metres from his front door when a man and a woman opened fire.

Soon afterwards, an explosion at a nearby supermarket caused extensive damage and seriously wounded at least one person. The blast was consistent with the practice of Eta, the Basque separatist organisation, of destroying its getaway cars.

Hours earlier, Eta's political wing, Herri Batasuna (HB), had said more violence was imminent. HB's MP for the Navarra region, Jaime Iribarren, warned of "an immediate future of great suffering that we don't desire in any way". But it was an inevitable consequence of continued "repressive measures". He urged ministers to talk to Eta prisoners and accept their demands to be moved to jails nearer home. Eta still holds a prison officer, Jose Ortega Lara, seized nearly a year ago in pursuit of this demand.

On Monday five rocket grenades went off at Madrid airport in an attack claimed by Eta. They caused little damage but the Interior Minister, Jaime Mayor Oreja, said he feared there would be a terrorist attack in Madrid early in the new year in response to recent police strikes against Eta.