Spanish party leader survives Eta car bomb

TERROR IN MADRID: Basque separatists' attempt to kill leading politician condemned by main parties as threat to democracy


in Madrid

Spain's conservative opposition leader, Jose Maria Aznar, walked away with minor head injuries yesterday after a bomb destroyed his armoured car in the centre of Madrid. Sixteen people were hurt, six seriously, 15 cars burnt out and and two buildings reduced to rubble.

The attack, thought to have been the work of the Madrid Command of the Basque separatist organisation Eta, was followed shortly afterwards by an explosion in a different part of the city that disposed of the getaway car - standard Eta practice. Mr Aznar was kept in hospital overnight for observation.

The attack is the latest in a string of meticulously chosen actions by Eta - now the only large-scale domestic terrorist organisation operating in Western Europe.

The first fatal attack this year was on two policemen in Bilbao on 13 January. Ten days later, the PP's leader in the Basque Country, Gregorio Ordonez, was shot in the head, the first assassination of a politician claimed by Eta in three years.

On Monday last week, it shot dead a police brigadier in the Basque city of San Sebastian. However, the notorious Madrid Command has been dormant since July when three people, one an army general, died in a huge city centre car bomb.

Yesterday's attack, had it succeeded, could have had a cataclysmic impact comparable with the assassination of Franco's chosen successor in 1973, and it has struck fear across the political spectrum. One legal observer noted that if Mr Aznar had been killed, "we would have gone back to 1936", the start of the Civil War. Every main party in the country condemned the attack as a threat to the country's young democracy, with the exception of Eta's political wing, Herri Batasuna.

Jose Maria Aznar, the possible successor to Felipe Gonzalez as Prime Minister, leads a party that embodies the principle of a single, centralised Spain, a Francoist tradition he has done little to break. The PP, running 12 per cent ahead of the ruling Socialists in opinion polls, has made little effort to win support from the autonomous regions, despite the ruling parties of the three most important - Catalonia, Galicia and the Basque Country - all being conservative.

Earlier this week, Mr Aznar reiterated his rejection of separatist tendencies, saying "someone has to define the limits of a policy of autonomy [of the regions]". Spain should think in terms of "cohesion, entirety, firmness and strength", he said, using the "Espanolista" language that could hardly be more offensive to regional forces.

There was speculation yesterday that Eta might be targeting the ruling Socialists as much as the PP - taking advantage of the weakness of Mr Gonzalez's government, which has been battered for months by allegations that it was behind anti-Eta death squads in the Eighties.

The attack came a day after Judge Baltazar Garzon formally charged a clutch of former Interior Ministry officials with organising and funding Gal anti-terrorist squads that killed more than 20 Eta members then.

The Gal, the judge declared on Tuesday, were armed and paid by the Interior Ministry and had responded "to the intense activity of the terrorist organisation Eta Militar `with the same weapons' - assassinations and illegal detentions - that were all outside the rule of law."

Shortly after the attack on Mr Ordonez in January, Eta warned that political leaders, as well as military or police figures, would be possible targets, a threat repeated last Sunday in the Basque newspaper Egunkaria.

Eta leaders said, referring to the Ordonez killing: "Professional politicians have understood that the consequences of prolonging the conflict will affect them all and every one of them must make efforts to find a reasonable solution." None the less, yesterday's attack caught police completely unawares.

The government has frequently claimed victory over Eta and, in 1992, announced the arrest in France of its entire leadership. Only last year, however, the Interior Minister said 10 units were operating in Spain.

In recent years, the government has been "reinserting" hundreds of long- term Eta prisoners into civilian life - fearing that, with their highly organised prison network, they presented more of a hazard behind bars than outside.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksNow available in paperback
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
Life and Style

The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes

Video: It is the type of thing no parent wants to hear

Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: Business Development Manager

Competitive: Opilio Recruitment: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a Bu...

Recruitment Genius: Systems / Network Administrator

£35000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning internet, do...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunity for someone l...

Opilio Recruitment: Technical Recruiter

£35k - 42k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We have an exciting oppo...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game